Weekly TV ratings: Settling into a pattern

juliannamargulies_thegoodwife_02_290.jpgHighlights and lowlights from the weekly Nielsen ratings, starting with a rarity: The week's most-watched program wasn't on broadcast TV.

That honor belongs instead to "Monday Night Football" on ESPN, which last week set an all-time record for cable programming as 21.84 million people tuned in to watch the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers. The previous cable record was for another "Monday Night Football" game, Philadelphia vs. Dallas, in September 2008.

On the broadcast networks, things have settled into a fairly predictable pattern -- which is not necessarily good news for the broadcast networks. CBS is still the healthiest of the broadcast nets and won the week by a wide margin. ABC and FOX were both down from the same week last year in both viewers and adults 18-49, while NBC and The CW showed slight improvements over a year ago.

A quick look at the highs and lows from the networks for the week of Oct. 5-11:

CBS

Highlight: Tuesday night. "NCIS" (20.7 million viewers) was the No. 1 show on broadcast TV again last week, and "The Good Wife" (13.69 million) is holding remarkably steady three weeks into its season. "NCIS: Los Angeles" (16.31 million) has cooled off a little but is still far and away the most-watched new series of the fall.

Lowlight: "Three Rivers" and "Cold Case." Yes, NFL overruns delayed their start by 43 minutes in much of the country. But "Three Rivers" still lost more than 3 million viewers from its "Amazing Race" lead-in (10.52 million to 7.33 million), and "Cold Case" (7.87 million this week) is running way behind its average for last season.

ABC

Highlight: "Grey's Anatomy." Though it's losing some of its audience in the way that veteran dramas tend to do -- 14.13 million people watched last week -- it's still a major player. It was also the No. 2 network show of the week in the 18-49 demo, tied with "House."

Lowlight:
Wednesday night. Not a lot of people gave second chances to "Hank" and "The Middle," and with a weaker lead-in both "Modern Family" (8.82 million) and "Cougar Town" (7.84 million) took substantial hits, falling by a million viewers each. "Eastwick," meanwhile, went on life support after becoming the first 10 p.m. drama to draw a smaller audience than "The Jay Leno Show" on NBC (5.72 million for Leno vs. 5.14 million for the witches).

jennafischer_johnkrasinski_theofficewedding_290.jpg NBC

Highlight: "The Office." The hour-long wedding episode drew the show's biggest same-day audience of the season (9.42 million), made a lot of those people weepy and ranked fourth for the week in the 18-49 demo with a 4.8 rating.

Lowlight: "Heroes" and "Trauma" both remained frozen in fourth place on Mondays. Neither show topped 5.5 million viewers in the same-day numbers.

FOX

Highlight:
"Bones." "House" (13.74 million viewers) was the network's most-watched show last week, but "Bones" (10.29 million) is holding its own on Thursdays. It beat ABC's hyped newbie "FlashForward" by more than a million viewers last week.

Lowlight:
"Brothers." Only 2.3 million people tuned in on Friday, a figure that's not likely to rise much in the live plus 7 ratings; it was one of the least-DVR'd scripted shows on TV in premiere week. Heck, more people watched a Sunday replay (2.47 million) than the Friday original.

The CW

Highlight: "The Vampire Diaries." It remains the network's most-watched show of the season and has stayed pretty consistent over its five weeks on the air. It came in at 3.52 million viewers this week.

Lowlight:
"Melrose Place." Even with a 32-percent lift in the DVR ratings for premiere week, it still came in under 2 million viewers. The same-day numbers last week (1.6 million) were slightly better than the week before, but it still ranks as the lowest-rated show of the week (not counting encores) on the broadcast nets.

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