Telling 'Lie' story of the night in ratings

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Wednesday night pitted the fifth-season premiere of ABC's "Lost" against Fox's new Tim Roth procedural "Lie to Me" in a very tight match. The outcome demonstrates that a trio of networks will have ratings-competitive programming running on Wednesdays during midseason.

"Lost" topped "Lie" by one-tenth of a ratings point during the 9 p.m. hour. The "Lie" numbers (12.4 million viewers, 4.9 rating/12 share in adults 18-49) mark the highest-rated series debut this season, though that claim comes with caveats.

"Lie" drained about 13% of its rating during its hour (a wholly expected and mild decline because of its enormous lead-in, "American Idol") and didn't come close to the premiere of "Moment of Truth" in the slot last year. If "Lie" settles close to the 4.6 rating that concluded its hour in the weeks to come, Fox will be pleased. Plus, "Lie" topped "Lost" among total viewers.

The two-hour "Lost" debut (11.4 million, 5.0/12) was down 25% from last year in the adult demo. The heavily serialized drama was expected to drop, though this is a steeper percentage than the network would have liked. Its lead-in, a "Lost" recap show (8.5 million, 3.3/9), did well, placing second at 8 p.m. after "Idol."

Fox is enjoying a tentative sigh over "Idol" (25.9 million, 9.8/25), which partly bounced back from Tuesday's Inauguration Day plummet. Wednesday's one-hour edition was down 17% from the premiere week's two-hour edition — less than Tuesday's 24% drop yet more than last year's second-week decline. "Idol" was down only about 10% from last year, however, which is considered a meager annual drop compared with most broadcast shows.

CBS took third with its comedies "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (7.3 million, 2.1/6) and "Gary Unmarried" (7 million, 2.2/5) performing steadily yet modestly. At 9 p.m., "Criminal Minds" (13.8 million, 3.4/8) came in third in the hour in the adult demo, though it won 9 p.m. among total viewers. "CSI: NY" (2.9/7) placed second at 10 p.m. behind the second hour of "Lost."

NBC was fourth with anemic "Knight Rider" (5 million, 1.5/4), a "Law & Order: SVU" repeat surrendering 9 p.m. and "Law & Order" (8.3 million, 2.4/6) placing last at 10 p.m. On the CW, "13: Fear Is Real" (1.4 million, 0.5/1) approached the network's Sunday night repeat-block numbers. (partialdiff)
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