Nielsen backlog finally starts to clear -- but ratings are still delayed

Jayharrington_betteroffted_240 After four days in the dark, TV executives trying to set their lineups for next season and fans wondering how their favorite shows are doing finally got a few answers when Nielsen released last week's ratings.

Of course, we still don't know what happened Monday or Tuesday, and it's anyone's guess whether the apparently large "server issues" Nielsen experienced over the weekend have been resolved enough to get the system back on track to release Wednesday night's numbers, which include the finale of "Scrubs," the penultimate "Lie to Me" of the season and ABC's on-the-bubble crime show "The Unusuals."

Then, of course, there's the season finale of "Better Off Ted" and CBS' "Without a Trace" -- both of which aren't sure things for next season -- and this week's "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars," the big guns for FOX and ABC.

Nielsen says it's "working around the clock" to fix things and get back on schedule, but the networks who use the numbers to help set ad rates and schedules are, not surprisingly, pretty upset.

The system failure "couldn't have come at a worse time," NBC research boss Alan Wurtzel told The New York Times. "This comes at a particularly tough time of year because all of us are making evaluations about bubble shows and time periods and so forth."

Another executive fumed to Variety that "It makes you really wonder, though, about the validity of anything they put out."

Part of the ongoing issue is that Nielsen processes its data "in sequence" -- meaning it can't release one day's ratings until the previous day's numbers are out. Now that Sunday's ratings are finished, numbers for the other days this week may start trickling out fairly soon. Or so the networks and people who work for on-the-bubble shows hope.