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April 24, 2009

'Grey's,' 'Practice' return to wins; most shows drop

Private practice UPDATED: ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice returned Thursday to dominate the ratings and put pressure on competitors for the first night of sweeps.

But with all five broadcasters airing nearly all-original episodes, plus NBA first-round playoffs running on cable (Celtics vs. Bulls), nearly every series posted modest numbers last night. In fact, a large number of shows hit season or series lows. Go ahead and guess how many. The answer is at the bottom of the story.

In their first new episodes since late March, Grey's (13.2 million viewers, 4.9 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) and Practice (9.2 million, 3.4) won their respective hours, though Grey's lost 13% and Practice slipped a couple tenths. A Grey's repeat started ABC's night. 

CBS was very close for second in the demo and led among total viewers. Survivor (11.4 million, 3.5) was nearly steady and easily topped 8 p.m. and CSI (14.5 million, 3.6) dipped a tad. Harper's Island (7.5 million, 2.0) continued its decline, though slowed this week.

NBC moved into third, with My Name Is Earl (5.5 million, 2.2) flat and the third week of Parks and Recreation (5.2 million, 2.3) nodding down 8%. The Office (7.2 million, 3.7) was down 12% yet once again edged out CSI to place second in the 9 p.m. hour; 30 Rock (6.3 million, 3.1) slipped a similar amount. Week three of Southland (8 million, 2.5), up against Practice for the first time, fell into second place in the hour and was down 17%. NBC expected Southland to take a hit this week, but hoped for a softer thump.

Fox was in fourth place with Bones (8.2 million, 2.2) and Hell's Kitchen (6.8 million, 3.0) down 12% and 14%, respectively.

The CW's lineup took a beating: Smallville (3.1 million, 1.3) was down 24% and Supernatural (2.8 million, 1.1) fell 27% in the adult demo.

As for how many shows hit a season or series low in the overnight ratings, the answer is 11: Survivor (series low; non-Thanksgiving), CSI (series), Grey's (series), Office (season), Bones (season), Hell's (season), Smallville (season) and Supernatural (matching season low). Parks, Harper's, and Southland hit lows too, though that's somewhat common for third episodes of a series. 

Not a good start for May sweeps. Only Fox posted a gain over last year.

UPDATE: Some of last night's programs shifted slightly in Nielsen's afternoon nationals, though the result remains the same with 11 show hitting lows: 9 p.m.'s Grey's, CSI and The Office all went up a tenth of a rating point, while 10 p.m.'s Private, Harper's and Southland declined a tenth. Also, Fox's Bones went up a tenth at 8 p.m. 


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