SAME OLD, SAME OLD: RATINGS, THAT IS

Until Fox's American Idol and ABC's Dancing With the Stars end their runs this season -- and they will in the coming weeks -- the weekly list of top-ten rated shows will continue to look mostly like carbon copies of one another. Total numbers for both shows are down significantly from their levels in recent years, but they still continue to be far ahead of anything else on network television. Last week's "results" episode of Idol attracted 23.6 million viewers, while the "performance" episode attracted 23.4 million. Dancing's Monday-night show came in third with 20.3 million. Nevertheless, neither Fox nor ABC walked away with honors as the most-watched network. They went instead, as they have most of the season, to CBS, which averaged a 6.8 rating and a 12 share for the week. ABC placed second with an average 5.6/10, edging out Fox with a 5.3/9. NBC, which again could place no shows in the top ten, came in fourth with a 4.2/7.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 13.7/21; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 13.4/21; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 12.6/19; 4. The Mentalist, CBS, 10.4/16; 4. NCIS, CBS, 10.4/17; 6. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 10.3/16; 7. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 9.4/14; 8. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.2/15; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 8.9/14; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.7/14.

IDOL AUDIENCE SHRINKS

On Tuesday night, American Idol, which usually sees its audience expand in the final weeks of the contest, actually saw it fall off instead. The talent show, down to three contestants, attracted 21.79 million viewers, compared to 23.4 million for last week's "performance" show. NBC, meanwhile, the biggest loser among the four major networks, posted decent numbers with a three-hour season finale of The Biggest Loser, which averaged 11.76 million viewers. Once again, CBS was the most consistent performer throughout primetime, attracting 15.78 million viewers for NCIS despite competition from American Idol. It was followed by The Mentalist, the biggest new hit of the season, with 16.11 million and Without a Trace with 13.43 million.

NBC NARROWLY WINS NIGHTLY NEWS RACE

The number of viewers who tuned in to the network nightly newscasts last week fell sharply from the previous week, but NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams continued to lead ABC World News With Charles Gibson. The difference was negligible, however, amounting to just 400,000 viewers out of nearly 15.4 million. The NBC telecast attracted 7.89 million viewers; ABC's, 7.49 million. CBS Evening News With Katie Couric continued to trail with just 5.70 million. It was NBC News's 30th consecutive weekly win.

AUSTRALIAN TV CENSORS "INTENTIONALLY" OFFENSIVE SHOW

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has censored a hit television show in which advertising agencies compete to sell the unsellable, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today Wednesday). In one segment of the show, The Gruen Transfer, one of the agencies, The Foundry, in trying to sell "fat bride," commented that if it was not all right to make jokes about "blacks, poofters [homosexuals], and Jews," why should it be all right to make jokes about fat people? It then proceeded to air several offensive jokes that included, "How do black women fight crime? They have abortions," "How do you stop a poofter from drowning? You take your foot off his head." And "What's the difference between Santa Claus and a Jew? Santa Clause goes down the chimney." While the faux ad was yanked from the program, it remained on the show's web page. Interviewed by the Herald, Kim Dalton, ABC's director of television, said, "When we viewed this particular pitch we felt that some of our viewers could be offended by it and find it insensitive and in some cases quite hurtful. We believe it's possible to tackle difficult issues such as discrimination through humor or satire in ways which can be controversial, confronting and challenging. However, doing so is difficult and we believe this piece of work missed its mark."

Cinemark Movie Club