- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

‘A.I.’ slips

For all the hand-wringing headlines, Fox’s “American Idol” has held up strong this season. The reality sensation has been down about 8 percent in overall viewers compared with last year and a little more in the adult demo. Those are head-held-high drops considering the show’s total dominance of prime time, its age and how well many other shows are performing.

Nevertheless, Thursday night’s results show was rough sledding.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Idol” (20.7 million viewers) hit a season low, and not by a little. Stacked against CBS’ “Survivor” (12.3 million for the first time this year), “Idol” fell 21 percent from its previous preliminary-rating low. “Idol” also was down 18 percent from last year’s first “Idol” vs. “Survivor” fight.

An “Idol” drop of some degree was guaranteed. Wading into Thursday — TV’s most competitive night — with a typically lesser-rated results-show episode and the addition of “Survivor” ensured a new drop. Still, the numbers are a bit wince-inducing, especially this early in the season. “Idol” won the battle, but “Survivor” was less bloodied percentagewise, down by 13 percent from last week.

Consider, though, how the other shows performed.

ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (6.8 million) hit a series low, THR notes. Likewise, NBC’s special “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five” (4 million) had meager numbers and was followed by a series low for the network’s “Kath & Kim” (3.4 million).

Maybe “Idol” should just stay out of this time period. It doesn’t seem to be good for anybody… except, perhaps, “Hell’s Kitchen” (9.9 million). The cooking competition jumped 34 percent in the 9 p.m. slot thanks to its “Idol” lead-in.

So Fox won the night, followed by CBS, whose “CSI” (17.8 million) dipped a tenth last week to another series low - despite ABC’s airing a repeat of “Grey’s Anatomy.” With “Private Practice” airing a repeat too, CBS’ “Eleventh Hour” (11.7 million) climbed a few notches.

Meanwhile, NBC had a mix of repeats and originals on Thursday, including “30 Rock” (6.3 million) and a surging “ER” (8.7 million), which won the 10 p.m. hour. The CW aired repeats.

Speaking of “Survivor,” the long-running CBS reality series has been renewed for two more seasons, Zap2it.com reports.

Jeff Probst, who won an Emmy for hosting “Survivor,” will continue in the job for those 19th and 20th editions of the show.

“We have a unique relationship with our audience,” Mr. Probst says. “They tell us what they like, and we listen. It’s worked for 18 editions, and we’re looking forward to delivering two more satisfying seasons!”

The series, executive-produced by Mark Burnett, first aired in May 2000 and has been anchoring CBS’ Thursday lineup since 2001.

More ‘Unsung’ ahead

TV One will offer eight new episodes of its acclaimed biography series “Unsung,” Variety reports.

The hourlong nonfiction programs encapsulate the lives and careers of successful artists who have fallen off the radar or been deemed underappreciated for one reason or another.

The series, which premiered in the fall, already has produced four episodes of “Unsung,” featuring DeBarge, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and the Clark Sisters.

The episode featuring Miss Hyman, in fact, was TV One’s highest-rated original program of 2008 for the black-targeted channel, which is seen in 47 million households.

On tap tonight:

Harlem Heights (10, BET) — Series premiere of the new reality show, which follows eight young blacks as they attempt to make their mark on New York City.

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (12:35 a.m., NBC) — Series premiere. The former “Saturday Night Live” star slips into the seat once occupied by Conan O’Brien. Among the guests: Robert De Niro and Justin Timberlake.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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