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April 29, 2009

'Idol' slips again, yet 'Fringe' rises

120_morethanone_157 UPDATED: Tuesday night had some mixed news for Fox, with American Idol posting its lowest Tuesday performance since its first season and freshman thriller Fringe inching upward. Fringe marked its best rating in a couple weeks even as its Idol lead-in slipped slightly.

Idol (23.3 million viewers, 8.1 national adults 18-49 rating) won the night and towered over competitors as usual, followed by Fringe (9.6 million, 4.0).

With Fox's Lie to Me falling on Wednesday nights without its Idol lead-in, Fringe has become the highest-rated freshman drama series of the season (its time period rival, CBS' The Mentalist, is the most watched). What Fringe would rate without a powerful lead-in like House or Idol remains an equation even Walter Bishop couldn't solve since Fox has protected the show since its premiere, and plans to continue supporting it with Idol for the remainder of the season. Some in the industry argue about Fringe vs. The Mentalist, debating which freshman drama is the more genuine hit, like sports bar patrons bickering over pro athlete stats. Fringe has larger adult demo ratings, but The Mentalist has the weaker lead-in.

Remember that CBS once aired a special Sunday night The Mentalist after the AFC Championship Game with a far bigger lead-in than Idol has given Fringe all season. The CBS detective thriller drew a strong 4.6 rating -- a season high, as one would expect, though not by a large amount and Fringe once drew slightly better after Idol. Another talking point is Fox's Lie to Me -- now performing fairly modestly without an Idol opener on Wednesdays. Yet Lie ratings started falling steadily before it moved to 8 p.m., whereas Fringe has held a fairly consistent batting average and sometimes rises despite Idol falling.

All this isn't to declare that Fringe would outrate The Mentalist on an even playing field ... only that a lead-in isn't everything and both shows have proven themselves as freshman MVPs (read PaleyFest coverage: Fringe and Mentalist).

NBA playoffs aired on cable, which probably took some steam out of the broadcast numbers in general. NBA was in second place with Biggest Loser (9.3 million, 3.6) down a tenth and Law & Order: SVU (10.5 million, 3.9) winning 10 p.m.

CBS, which placed second among total viewers and third in the adult demo, aired part one of its NCIS spinoff (16.7 million, 3.5), which was down a notch from the last NCIS original airing a few weeks back. Let's see how part two performs before trying to pull a meaning from those numbers. The Mentalist (17.1 million, 3.7) rose a tenth and Without a Trace (12.2 million, 2.5) dropped 17%.

ABC was fourth with According to Jim (3.3 million, 1.0), a steady Dancing With the Stars (14.7 million, 3.3) results show and a season low Cupid (5.6 million, 1.6).

On the CW, Reaper (1.8 million, 0.7) and 90210 (1.8 million, 0.9) were on the low side.

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