TIGHT RACE BETWEEN HEROES AND 24

Fox's 24 took on NBC's new hit Heroes Monday night in the 9:00 p.m. hour and 24 came out ahead in the overnight ratings with a 9.9 rating and a 14 share. But Heroes was close behind with a 9.2/13, and the final figures could see a reversal in the standings. Moreover, Heroes appeared likely to edge out 24 among adults 18-49, the key demographic group so far as advertisers are concerned. In any event, the top-rated show at 9:00 Monday was neither Heroes nor 24 but CBS's Two and a Half Men, which posted a 10.2/14 in the first half of the hour. (It was followed at 9:30 by The New Adventures of Old Christine, which placed third with an 8.4/12.) The top-rated show of the night continued to be CBS's CSI:Miami, with a 12.5/20, well over twice the numbers for the returning Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on NBC, which placed second with a 5.3/8.

SUPER BOWL-LIKE NUMBERS FOR TITLE GAMES

CBS's coverage of the AFC title game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots produced the highest ratings of any TV show since last year's Super Bowl, outranking even las March's Oscar awards show, according to overnight Nielsen ratings. The game earned a 28.1 rating and a 40 share vs. a 27.6/40 for the Oscars. It was the highest-rated telecast of an AFC title game since 1986. In the final moments of the game as quarterback Peyton Manning of the Colts scored the go-ahead touchdown, 57 million viewers were tuned in. Earlier in the day, the highly trumpeted matchup on Fox between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints for the NFC title averaged a 25.1/45, making it the most-watched NFC championship game since 1997. Given those kinds of numbers, analysts expect this year's Super Bowl between Chicago and Indianapolis could draw record ratings even though the contest amounts to a virtual subway series.

COWELL: ROSIE'S JUST LOOKING FOR RATINGS

American Idol judge/co-producer Simon Cowell has indicated he won't engage in a public battle with Rosie O'Donnell over her remarks on The View last week. O'Donnell had accused Cowell of "unacceptable" behavior when he criticized the appearance of one of the audition contestants. "I don't think America likes to watch people be ridiculed, made fun of, and called ugly monkeys," she remarked. Later, Cowell remarked that if contestants weren't prepared for such treatment, they shouldn't show up for the auditions. On Monday he told the online edition of TV Guide that O'Donnell's comments "smacked of, 'I'll have a go at Donald Trump -- good for ratings. That died down, so now I'll do American Idol.' Next week it will be, 'I don't like the dresses on Dancing with the Stars.'"

NO MORE TINKERING WITH EVENING NEWS FORMAT, SAYS CBS NEWS CHIEF

CBS News has apparently halted further experimentation with the format of the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric. In an interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said, "If you look at the show now, the mix is where it should be and it is as hard as any other newscast at 6:30. We said from day one the show that you see in September is going to be very different than what you see in January or February, and it is." McManus also acknowledged that Couric's low ratings may be related to the fact that she's a woman. "There are probably people, both men and women, who are perhaps uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news," McManus said. "The way she is scrutinized, I think sometimes unfairly, quite frankly, I think a lot of that has to do with gender."

ANOTHER U.K. REALITY SHOW IN HOT WATER

Another British reality-show contestant has created a new storm of controversy by remarking on the air that she's in favor of slavery and that she doesn't "like it when foreigners come into this country and they don't take on British culture and British values." Eighteen-year-old Lucy Buchanan made the comments on Shipwrecked, which is carried by Channel 4, the same British television network whose Celebrity Big Brother aroused anger when one of the contestants made racist comments about an Indian fellow contestant. On Sunday night's episode, Buchanan remarked, "I don't appreciate how people come into our country and take over our country. Britain's really not Britain anymore." The British watchdog OFCOM said that it had received 69 complaints about the comments, a drop in the bucket compared with the 40,000 that Celebrity Big Brother generated. A spokesman for Channel 4 indicated that Buchanan's remarks had been immediately criticized on the air by other contestants, who said that they found them offensive.

Brian B.