Consistency has a long, funny name: SpongeBob SquarePants.
The Nickelodeon cartoon was its usual dominant self in the ratings last week, placing 20 telecasts—yes, 20—among cable's top 50 most watched programs.
The highest-rated episode was a Thursday-morning one that averaged 3.9 million, or more viewers than this summer's highest-rated Project Runway yet (3.3 million).
The "least"-watched top 50 episode was a Friday-afternoon telecast that averaged 3.2 million, or more viewers than the strong-premiering Lifetime movie Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal (3 million).
With its is-he-or-isn't-he-gay imbroglio long behind it, the mild-mannered SpongeBob doesn't rate as many mentions as its cable counterparts, because it mostly airs in the morning and early evening—i.e., not prime time.
But when it does air in prime time, it is just as dominant, if not more so. One episode in April drew 6.1 million viewers; a movie special last fall averaged 8.8 million.
SpongeBob turns 10 next year. After all this time, it doesn't act a day over one hot freshman season old.
Other ratings highlights for the TV week ended Sunday:
The D-cup was half full for E!'s new Pamela Anderson series. Airing in the same Sunday time slot previously occupied by Denise Richards: It's Complicated, Pam: Girl on the Loose (1.1 million) premiered bigger than Richards' season finale (975,000), but smaller than Richards' own season premiere in May (1.5 million). (E! Online is a division of E! Entertainment Television.)
The Anderson companion show, Sunset Tan, got off to a solid second-season start (1.3 million) in the 10:30 p.m. Sunday slot. Sunset Tan was way up over Living Lohan's season finale (734,000), and not far off from the latter show's much-publicized premiere (1.45 million).
More than half of the viewers who checked out Mad Men's post-Emmy season premiere didn't check back in for Sunday's second episode. The AMC series averaged 1.3 million viewers, down 62 percent from the previous week. The show's still way up over its largely ignored first season.
TNT's The Closer (7.4 million) was cable's most-watched show—again.
Other top-rated drama series included USA's Law & Order: Criminal Intent (4.9 million) USA's Burn Notice (4.86 million) and, TNT's can't-quite-hold-that-Closer-lead-in Saving Grace (4.8 million).
An all-new episode of Disney Channel's Hannah Montana (4.6 million) ruled among cable's comedy series.
TBS' House of Payne was the SpongeBob SquarePants of prime-time sitcoms, placing three telecasts in the top 50, including a 10:30 p.m. Wednesday one that averaged 3.7 million.
USA's Monday-night wrestling shows are the SpongeBob SquarePants of, well, Monday-night wrestling shows, which is more than good enough. Together, last week's two hours averaged 5.3 million viewers, more than any other prime-time cable show after The Closer.
Coincidence or no? Blayne Walsh doesn't drop a "licious" during the Manhattan-by-night challenge; Project Runway's ratings shoot up 26 percent from last week.
In broadcast, NBC's America's Got Talent did its thing, pulling another No. 1 finish, and hitting a new season—and summer-series—high in viewers (13.8 million).
CBS' Flashpoint (12th place, 7.7 million) was the most-watched summer drama series. It also was the only summer drama series on the big four networks, but nevertheless...
NBC's NFL ratings understandably were not in midseason form for a Sunday-night preseason game (16th place, 7.4 million), although the action did rate a sixth-place finish among 18- to 49-year-olds.
In the small victories department, the Monday installment of ABC's High School Musical: Get in the Picture (79th place, 3.5 million) was up over last week's.
Can it possibly be true that Family Guy once was canceled? Its Sunday-night repeat on Fox (42nd place, 5.1 million) ranked in the top 10 in the 18-49 demo, while a Wednesday late-night repeat on Adult Swim (3.6 million) finished among cable's Top 25 shows.
In the network races, it was the same old, same old. CBS won the week in total viewers, averaging 6.3 million; Fox won the week in 18- to 49-year-olds, averaging 2.3 million.
Similarly in cable, USA was again on top in prime time (3.1 million), followed by Disney (2.6 million) and TNT (2.4 million).
Here's a look at the 10 most-watched broadcast network prime-time shows for the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research:
America's Got Talent, NBC, 13.8 million viewers
Wipeout, ABC, 9.7 million viewers
Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.3 million viewers
So You Think You Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 8.8 million viewers
Criminal Minds, CBS, 8.7 million viewers
So You Think You Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 8.69 million viewers