A long time ago, back in September, Conan O'Brien was an NBC employee, the awards show was dead, and Kate Gosselin was no dancer.
At least some things didn't change during the 2009-10 ratings season.
With the TV year now wrapped, it's time to sort things out. Like the Nielsen winners from the Nielsen losers.
Kate Gosselin: Sure, Dancing With the Stars got along fine before the reality mom. But after the left-footed attention magnet joined the cast in March, the show started doing the unthinkable: outdrawing American Idol.
Jay Leno Mr. Bulletproof walked away from his 10 p.m. bomb (quite rightly, given the bad idea was NBC's, not his), moved back into The Tonight Show (sorry, Conan), and picked up where he left off: beating David Letterman.
Ellen DeGeneres American Idol retains its crown as TV's most-watched show over DWTS thanks to its usual supersized premiere (29.9 million viewers) and unusual interest in the Hollywood premiere of its new judge (27.9 million) .
Lost: Unlike some retiring shows (see 24 below), this series got out while the getting was very good. (Finale debate aside…) Compared to the 2008-09 season, viewership was up by more than 20 percent.
Glee: A cult fave became a real-deal hit. Airing after AI helped did it, but lots of shows have aired after AI. Glee owned the moment.
The Big Bang Theory: Ditto what we said for Glee, except insert Two and a Half Men in place of AI, and give Big Bang Theory even more credit for its explosion.
TV The Super Bowl was an all-time tube record-setter. Awards shows, the unwatchable Academy Awards telecast included, were back. Shows across the board were up—DWTS, NCIS, The Mentalist, Grey's Anatomy, Two and a Half Men, the aforementioned Lost, etc.
American Idol: No, this show wasn't up. And, yes, the finale was down—a lot (from nearly 29 million in 2009 to 24.2 million last night, the least-watched finale since the first season). But it was—and is—the No. 1-rated show on TV. For a record-tying, fifth-straight season.
24: Unlike some retiring shows (see Lost above), this show's ratings just looked tired. Same for Law & Order.
Cold Case: Sometimes it sucks to be a series on CBS, the last broadcast network dedicated to the true meaning of broadcast. This show goes down as the most-watched series (9.9 million) to get axed this month.
FlashForward: Not a bomb, no, but arguably the fall's highest-profile freshman failure.
Dane Cook on the American Idol Finale: Sorry, this has nothing to do with ratings. We just wanted to point that out again.
OK, so how did the season shake down, Top 10-wise? While we don't yet have Nielsen's final rankings (reflecting the Idol and DWTS finales, along with some others series'), here's how things looked through Sunday:
- American Idol (Tuesday), 24.9 million
- American Idol (Wednesday), 23.4 million
- Dancing With the Stars (Monday), 19.7 million
- Sunday Night Football, 19.4 million
- NCIS, 18.8 million
- Undercover Boss, 17.7 million
- The Mentalist, 16.8 million
- CSI, 15.8 million
- NCIS: Los Angeles, 15.7 million
- CBS NFL Postgame, 15.5 million