'Idol' special isn't special, but Fox wins

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Three nights of "American Idol" secured another top finish for Fox in a week that marked the return to originals of NBC's Thursday night lineup and ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Fox's second annual "Idol Gives Back" charity special, featuring performances by Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, Rihanna, Fergie and Miley Cyrus, averaged 17.8 million viewers and a 6.8 rating/18 share among adults 18-49 on Wednesday. That was down 33% from the event's debut last year and marks the lowest rating for an "Idol" telecast since 2005's "American Idol's Worst Auditions" special.

Meanwhile, CBS' new reality series "Secret Talents of the Stars" made a quick exit after an underwhelming debut Tuesday. The celebrity competition finished a distant third in the 10 p.m. slot, averaging 4.6 million viewers and a 1.5/4 in 18-49.

There were ups and downs for other reality series last week.

NBC's "The Biggest Loser" (9 million, 3.7/9) posted its best number since January, while ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" results show (17 million, 3.6/9) hit a season low.

In NBC's first all-original Thursday lineup in months, the network's comedies were roughly on par with their pre-strike averages, but "The Office" spiked to deliver its highest rating since its season premiere (9.3 million, 4.9/12). At 8 p.m., "My Name Is Earl" (7.1 million, 3.1/9) and the return of "30 Rock" (5.8 million, 2.7/7) were down slightly from their averages, as they were up against an "American Idol" results show. The return of "Scrubs" at 9:30 was up 6% (6.6 million, 3.4/8). At 10 p.m., the return of "ER" was down 14% to match its all-time low (7.5 million, 3.1/8).

ABC's "Housewives" (16.4 million, 5.9/14) also had its lowest original telecast ever after coming out of its weakest lead-in to date from "Oprah's Big Give" (9 million, 2.9/8), which slid to the 8 p.m. hour.

At 10 p.m., ABC tried out midseason drama "Eli Stone" (8.8 million, 2.8/7), which benefited from its "Housewives" lead-in and was up 16% from its season average on Thursday.

On Friday, NBC had little traction with "Miss USA" (5.7 million, 1.7/5), which trailed CBS' "The Price Is Right Primetime" (8.1 million, 2.1/6).

For the week, Fox averaged 10.4 million viewers and a 3.9/11 among adults 18-49. CBS (10.3, 3.0/8) was second, followed by ABC (8.1 million, 2.4/7), NBC (6.6 million, 2.1/6) and the CW (2 million, 0.8/2).
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