'Housewives' causes ABC ratings storm

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NEW YORK -- Led by a tornado-whipped "Desperate Housewives" plus the season finale of "Dancing with the Stars" and holiday newcomer "Shrek the Halls," ABC won last week's primetime.

The epic dance-off between race-car driver Helio Castroneves and singer Marie Osmond boosted ABC's fortunes Monday and Tuesday, according to Nielsen Media Research data. On Monday, "Dancing with the Stars" (24.2 million, 6.0 rating/15 share in adults 18-49) gave ABC a big lead early in the night although CBS eked out a win in adults 18-49 on the heels of "Two and a Half Men" (15.3 million, 5.0/11) and "CSI: Miami" (15.6 million, 4.6/12). ABC's fortunes declined later in the night following the new sitcom "Samantha Who?" (11.7 million, 3.7/8). Meanwhile, "Heroes" (11.9 million, 5.3/12) improved week-to-week as did "Chuck" (8.4 million, 3.3/8).

Tuesday belonged to ABC thanks to the two-hour finale of "Dancing with the Stars" (24.9 million, 6.5/15), which wasn't the highest-rated "Dancing" by any stretch but still got the job done. Fox came in a strong second with "House" (17 million, 7.0/16). ABC made it two nights in a row with a strong 8 p.m. hour led by the premiere of "Shrek the Halls" (20.8 million, 7.1/19) and the perennial "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (18.5 million, 6.8/17). It also boosted "Pushing Daisies" (10 million, 3.7/9), although nowhere near enough to beat "Criminal Minds" (16.2 million, 4.5/11). Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" (7 million, 3.3/8) set a new ratings record for the show.

With repeats of heavyweights "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI," CBS's "Survivor: China" (13.6 million, 4.5/12) led the way while "ER" (8.7 million, 3.4/9) won at 10 p.m. against a repeat "Without a Trace" (9.8 million, 2.5/6). Friday went to ABC with the movie "The Polar Express" (9.3 million, 3.1/9), which easily beat CBS's offering "My Night at the Grammys" (6.1 million, 1.7/5) as well as NBC's lineup that included "Deal or No Deal" (10.5 million, 2.4/8) and "Friday Night Lights" (5.5 million, 1.7/5).

Saturday's Big 12 championship lifted ABC with 10.8 million viewers and a 4.1/12, while "Desperate Housewives" (20.6 million, 7.8/17) got the best ratings in a year with its tornado storyline. NBC didn't have as much luck with the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati "Sunday Night Football" matchup (14.4 million, 5.7/13) as it did with last week's Patriots-Eagles game. Fox got a huge number at the beginning of the night with 22.1 million viewers for an hourlong NFL runover, which gave its telecast of the BCS selection show (11.2 million, 4.3/11) a kick.

ABC (12.4 million, 4.0/10) won both key measures in primetime ahead of CBS (10.5 million, 2.7/7); NBC (8.2 million, 3.0/8); Fox (8.3 million, 3.1/8); and The CW (2.6 million, 1.1/3).
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