Which shows went out with a bang? Which show went out with a whimper? And which show could use a do-over?
The answers—and more questions—in the last TV ratings quiz of the summer season:
1. What does Michael Grimm have in common with Taylor Hicks? One, they're both singers. Two, they're both talent-show champs. And, three, Grimm's win, on the fifth-season finale of America's Got Talent, summer's No.1 series, powered the show to its biggest-ever audience (16.4 million viewers) just as Hicks' win, on the fifth-season finale of American Idol, delivered that franchise to its biggest-ever two-hour finale. (Note, we said two-hour finale. Idol's record-holding season-two Ruben-and-Clay finale was a one-hour finale, at least it was in Nielsen's count.)
2. Name three cable finales that dominated—and one that didn't. The Closer (7.2 million), Rizzoli & Isles (6.6 million), Top Chef (2.7 million)—and My Boys (784,000 for back-to-back episodes). The TBS comedy, which, no, sadly was not the show of the summer, actually wrapped during the previous ratings period, but got canceled during last week's.
3. Which reality show needs stars, not to mention that aforementioned do-over: The Apprentice or Survivor? The Apprentice. Sans Bret Michaels, the NBC series' 10th season premiere bombed, averaging fewer than 5 million viewers opposite reruns on ABC, CBS and Fox.
4. What about Survivor? While the franchise's solid Nicaragua opener was down a bit from last spring's all-star Heroes vs. Villains', it was up over last fall's Samoa premiere. Overall, it averaged about 12 million viewers.
5. Why is Melrose Place the best thing to have happened to Life Unexpected? MP was so weak on Tuesdays last fall that, by comparison, Life Unexpected looked like a hit to the CW, even though the latter's season-two opener averaged fewer than 2 million. One Tree Hill, also new to Tuesday, similarly benefitted. Its season-eight premiere averaged about 2.1 million.
6. The Jay Leno Show or Parenthood? On one hand, The Jay Leno Show had a bigger premiere week than Parenthood—or Outlaw, to name another NBC 10 p.m. fall show. On the other hand, well… Let's just say, we all know what The Jay Leno Show did after premiere week. As it was, Parenthood (7.7 million) and Outlaw (10.7 million) made good use of their America's Got Talent lead-ins, and got off to OK starts.
7. What does Oprah Winfrey have in common with the Real Housewives? (Hint: The answer is not nothing.) Both were syndication stars last week. Winfrey's final season of Oprah premiered to huge numbers, while the new syndicated version of The Real Housewives cleaned up among women who like their catfights catty—and nightly.
8. What will it take for Parks and Recreation to become a breakout hit this fall? More HD sets. Among HD-equipped households, a new Nielsen study shows, Parks and Rec was the third-biggest show during last May's sweeps. (The Office was No. 1; the canceled 24 was second.)