Fox finds its footing

Net back atop ratings with 'Idol,' Thurs. gains

Fox reclaimed its ratings lead last week and moved into solo first place on the season.

After the Super Bowl put NBC over the top the previous week, Fox righted its ship, led by a fairly steady "American Idol" (26.6 million viewers, 10.0 rating/25 share in adults 18-49) on Tuesday.

The network improved its traditional weak spot of Thursday nights by adding the time-period-topping "Bones" (10.9 million, 3.2/9) and "Hell's Kitchen" (7.7 million, 3.4/8). "Hell's" declined from its premiere but helped Fox score its highest-rated Thursday this season with regular programming. Tuesday's "Fringe" (12.8 million, 5.0/12) also gave Fox some good news, posting its second-highest-rated episode to date, while "House" (14.9 million, 5.6/14) and "24" (11.3 million, 3.7/8) continue to top Mondays.

CBS ranked second as its presentation of the 51st annual Grammy Awards (19 million, 7.4/18) compensated for some key shows running repeats. The music awards enjoyed gains from last year, particularly in advertiser-friendly demographics.

CBS also eclipsed last season in the adult demo — up 3% among adults 18-49 — the only major broadcast network to pull off a year-over-year gain for the season.

ABC ranked third for the week, led by Thursday night's "Grey's Anatomy" (15.3 million, 5.8/14), with lead-out "Private Practice" (12.9 million, 5.3/14) hitting a series high thanks to a "Grey's" tease promising the start of a character crossover that continues this week. The pairing of "Grey's" and its spinoff has worked well for ABC, which won both hours.

Another positive story for ABC is Monday night's "The Bachelor" (11 million, 4.7/10), which grows its rating with nearly every episode. On Wednesdays, however, "Life on Mars" (5.8 million, 2.0/5) continues to disappoint, losing more than half of its lead-in from "Lost" (11 million, 5.0/12).

NBC came in fourth place, with Monday night's 3-D episode of "Chuck" (8.5 million, 3.0/7) returning to a season-high rating after its promotion during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl and "Heroes" (8.5 million, 4.0/9) climbing a bit. Still, Thursday night's "The Office" (8.5 million, 4.4/11) demonstrated no benefit after the network aired an hourlong episode after the Super Bowl.

Also, the Friday night freshman reality show "Howie Do It" (4.7 million, 1.3/5) placed last in its time period after receiving an order for additional episodes.

The CW was up compared with a year ago in its target demo. (partialdiff)