Sophomore slump hits ABC

Three dramas falter in their Wednesday return; CBS wins the night

The season premieres of ABC's trio of original dramas posted dramatic declines Wednesday as "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" returned significantly lower than last year.

Despite enthusiastic reviews, the return of "Daisies" (6.3 million viewers, 2.0 rating/6 share in the key adults 18-49 demo) dropped 55% to a series-low fourth place at 8 p.m. It was the steepest plummet of any show returning to its former period this fall.

The premiere of "Practice" (8.2 million, 3.3/8) declined 37% to place third at 9 p.m. Then "Dirty Sexy Money" (7 million, 2.4/7) fell 33% to place second at 10 p.m. "Money" was the only ABC show Wednesday to improve on its last aired episode in December.

Last year, ABC made the bold choice of scheduling the three freshman dramas on the same night. The decision paid off in the Nielsen ratings, but then the shows became strike victims, spending nine months on the shelf after their aborted first seasons.

As a result, ABC placed second for the night, leaving CBS to win its second consecutive Wednesday.

CBS had hoped its comedies would perform better this week without facing "Dancing With the Stars," but both were about on par with their premieres. "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (6.8 million, 2.0/6) dropped a tenth, and "Gary Unmarried" (6.9 million, 2.2/6) fell two-tenths.

More severely, CBS' "Criminal Minds" (14.8 million, 3.9/10) dropped 17%, though it still won the 9 p.m. hour. Despite the weaker "Minds" lead-in, "CSI: NY" (14.9 million, 4.1/11) grew slightly and was the night's highest-rated show.

NBC came in third, with the second episode of "Knight Rider" (7.8 million, 2.4/7) holding up well, dropping only a tenth. The summer reality show "America's Got Talent" (12.7 million, 3.3/8) concluded, up 22% from last week. But at 10 p.m., the second round of "Lipstick Jungle" (5.3 million, 2.0/5) fell 17% from its premiere.

In fourth, Fox aired an on-par "Bones" (10 million, 3.2/9), which won the 8 p.m. hour. At 9 p.m., it ran a " 'Til Death" comedy hour (4.2 million, 1.7/5 and 3.6 million, 1.5/4). The second "Death" episode replaced "Do Not Disturb"; both episodes rated higher than last week.

The CW's "America's Next Top Model" (4 million, 1.9/5) fell slightly. (partialdiff)