William Petersen, CSI

Monty Brinton/CBS

The odds have caught up with CSI.

For the first time in five years, the Vegas-set crime show will not finish a season as TV's most-watched scripted show.

The 2007-08 season ends Wednesday night.

Desperate Housewives, much maligned for its own ratings slippage over the past couple of years, should finish the season on top among scripted shows, with 18.2 million viewers.

CSI, which currently holds a slight edge for second place over House, ends its eighth season averaging 16.89 million viewers, its least amount ever. The show's previous "low" was 17.8 million, posted during its first season.

The last time CSI didn't wind up as TV's top scripted show was 2001-02, when the departing Friends ruled.

CSI enjoyed its best season to date in 2002-03, when the CBS series averaged 26.2 million, and bested everything on TV, scripted or no.

Since 2003-04, CSI has been trumped by American Idol for the overall No. 1—and sometimes the overall No. 2—spot. But up until this season, it was the standard-bearer for scripted shows.

Ratings-wise, CSI has been in decline for more than a year. From the 2005-06 season to the 2006-07 season, the show lost 5.3 million viewers.

CSI opened this past season big and through November was TV's No. 1 show. Then came the writers' strike—and there went 21 percent of its audience. By comparison, Desperate Housewives only lost about 7 percent of its viewers from the start of the strike through the end of the season.

In addition to the strike, CSI went through cast upheaval, with the early season departure of Jorja Fox and the late season word that Gary Dourdan would not be back in the fall.

Desperate Housewives' win, meanwhile, is its first. It takes the scripted crown the old-fashioned way—it actually had more viewers this season than last, adding more than 1 million fans to its ranks.

Overall, Housewives looks to finish sixth, behind various editions of Dancing With the Stars and American Idol, which despite all the hand-wringing over what's wrong with it, should finish the season as TV's No. 1 and No. 2 shows.


Elsewhere, here are the ratings highlights for the TV week ended Sunday:

  • In the battle of season finales, at least, CSI (fourth place, 18.1 million) killed Desperate Housewives (sixth place, 16.8 million), Grey's Anatomy (seventh place, 15.5 million) and every other scripted show.
  • Of course, Housewives did hold the demographic edge over all scripted series. Among young adults, CSI finished behind Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, House and Two and a Half Men.
  • Judging by the Idol numbers, it's not that people don't want to hear this season's contestants sing, it's that they don't care as much what fate befalls them. Tuesday's performance show (second place, 24.8 million) was in line with last year's Top Three episode. Wednesday's results show (first place, 24.9 million) wasn't—it was off by more than 3 million.
  • CBS' Moonlight (41st place, 7.5 million) went out the way it went in, losing about 1 viewers from Ghost Whisperer (31st place, 8.4 million).
  • The Office's season closer was good for Angela and Dwight, but the NBC show has seen bigger climaxes than 8.2 million viewers (35th place).
  • Right about now, the canceled Women's Murder Club (36th place, 7.9 million) must be wondering what dirt the renewed According to Jim (80th place, 4.2 million for its first episode; 74th place, 4.5 million for its second) has on ABC execs.
  • The win for a "full-figured" gal fattened up CW's America's Next Top Model (69th place, 4.8 million).
  • To summarize cable's top prime-time shows: Basketball, basketball, wrestling.
  • Sci Fi Channel's Saturday-night offering of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (3.9 million), and Disney Channel's Friday-night revisit to High School Musical 2 (3.8 million) represented for nonprofessional athletes.
  • In daytime, Snoop Dogg romanced viewers of One Life to Live, fo' shizzle. A cameo by the gentleman rapper helped the ABC soap pad its young adult women numbers by 4 percent for the week of May 5.

Overall, CBS won the week in viewers (10.3 million), and preemptively declared itself the like winner of the May sweeps. Fox won the week in 18-to-49-year-olds (4.6 million), and did CBS one better, declaring itself the demo winner of sweeps—and the season.

Make that, Fox did CBS two better. It also said it would best CBS as the most watched network of 2007-08, the first such victory for Fox.

In cable, basketball-powered TNT averaged the most prime-time viewers (3.1 million), followed by wrestling-powered USA (2.4 million) and basketball-powered ESPN (2.1 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:

  1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 24.9 million viewers
  2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 24.8 million viewers
  3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 18.5 million viewers
  4. CSI, CBS, 18.1 million viewers
  5. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 17 million viewers
  6. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 16.8 million viewers
  7. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 15.5 million viewers
  8. House, Fox, 15 million viewers
  9. NCIS, CBS, 14.9 million viewers
  10. Without a Trace, CBS, 14.5 million viewers
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