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The Voice vs. American Idol: This Is War

The Voice, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, American Idol Chris Haston/NBC; Michael Becker / FOX

In recent years, the carping about American Idol's ratings, or, rather, American Idol's declining ratings, has been pointless: In the end, it's always No. 1. 

Make that, it was always No. 1.

For the first time since before Carrie Underwood outdueled Bo Bice, if you can remember back that long, Idol's been beat—and The Voice did it. 

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The NBC singing competition wound up as the highest-rated series among 18-to-49-year-olds in Nielsen's just-released weekly rankings.

The Voice's time-slot premiere last Monday scored a 6.7 rating, more than enough to top Idol's still-big numbers: a 6.1 rating for Wednesday's show, and a 5.8 for Thursday's edition.

It appears this is the first time since May 2005 that Idol failed to come out on top among regularly scheduled series in the demo rankings.

And that wasn't Idol's only loss of the week.

While both nights of Idol overall outdrew The Voice, it was NCIS that finished as the week's most-watched series, averaging a season-high 21 million viewers.

Last week's The Voice benefitted from its Super Bowl night push, while NCIS had its 200th episode mojo working for it. Idol was fortunate to be able to counter with contestant Symone Black's stage swoon.

The Voice stayed strong last night, dominating CBS' comedies, per the early numbers, and finishing with 16.1 million viewers and a 5.9 demo rating that may, or may not, best Idol in next week's rankings.

Either way, the fight is definitely on.

Also last night, Smash suffered a predictable drop from its heavily promoted premiere, got outdrawn by Castle in the 10 p.m. hour, but otherwise came up big. Its 8.1 million viewers and time-slot-winning 2.8 demo rating could be enough to ensure it Top 30 finishes in next week's weekly rankings.

Word of House's imminent demise, meanwhile, did not bring out the well-wishers in any great numbers. The show was about even, if slightly down, from last week (7.2 million viewers, 2.4 demo rating).

Here's a quick look at some of the ratings highlights from this week's broadcast and cable rankings—and apologies in advance, no info yet on Sunday's Downton Abbey season finale:

The Grammy Awards: Whilst Idol and The Voice were warring among themselves, Adele, Whitney Houston and the musical kitchen sink were powering the ceremony to its greatest heights since the days of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Interest in the show additionally appeared to drive E!'s Live From the Red Carpet preshow to the franchise's biggest-ever audience: 4.1 million viewers.

Rihanna The singer's Grammy performance with Coldplay was surprisingly, given the attention paid to Jennifer Hudson's Houston tribute, the most TiVo'd moment of the night. And, no, neither of Chris Brown's two Grammy numbers made the top five.

The Walking Dead: Airing opposite the Grammys or no, the zombie series' return hit a series high with 8.1 million viewers. Not only did the AMC series finish atop the weekly cable rankings, it dominated its Sunday-night broadcast competition. The only free-TV series to score more viewers was Once Upon a Time (8.6 million viewers), and it aired before, not against, Walking Dead.  

NBC's 10 p.m., Thursday time slot: After a long, dry season, it finally showed signs of life—thanks to a rerun of The Voice (3.5 million viewers, 1.5 demo rating). Grimm reruns take over next.

Here's a complete look at the TV week's top 10 most-watched broadcast shows:

  1. 54th Annual Grammy Awards, 39.9 million viewers
  2. NCIS, 21 million viewers
  3. American Idol (Wednesday), 19.3 million viewers
  4. American Idol (Thursday), 18.1 million viewers
  5. The Voice, 17.8 million viewers
  6. NCIS: Los Angeles, 16.3 million viewers
  7. The Big Bang Theory, 16.2 million viewers
  8. Person of Interest, 15.1 million viewers
  9. The Mentalist, 14.7 million viewers
  10. 60 Minutes, 14.3 million viewers

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