For truth in advertising purposes, it may be about time Desperate Housewives is retitled The Awards Show Killers.
ABC's satiric soap took a bite Sunday out of CBS' Grammys telecast, the third major awards show this season to apparently fall victim to the women of Wisteria Lane.
A Valentine's Day-themed Housewives was the most watched show of the night, seducing 22.1 million viewers, per preliminary ratings from Nielsen Media Research.
The Grammys, by comparison, drew 19.2 million in the 9-10 p.m. hour opposite Housewives.
As ABC helpfully pointed out in its morning ratings release, Housewives is the first entertainment program in a decade to outdo the Grammys on the night of the show's telecast.
Overall, the 47th Annual Grammy Awards averaged an estimated 18.8 million viewers from 8-11:30 p.m. In the heat of the February sweeps, the performance led CBS to a key nightly win over second-place ABC.
Still, the Desperate Housewives effect was evident. Viewership for Sunday's Grammys was down nearly 30 percent from last year. That drop also can be attributed to lack of a built-in controversy, à la the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fallout, that stoked last year's Grammy numbers.
But something definitely seems to be up with Housewives. Last year, with Teri Hatcher still a has-been, the Golden Globes, for instance, was watched by 26.8 million. This year, with Teri Hatcher winning a Globe on NBC and starring in Housewives on ABC, the award show was off by 10 million viewers.
The People's Choice Awards experienced a similar fall. Going up against Housewives in its first hour last month, the star-driven show stalled, with viewership down nearly 30 percent from 2004.
The next big awards show is the Academy Awards, set for Feb. 27 on ABC. Fortunately for producers of that telecast, Desperate Housewives plays for the home team.
All the news, meanwhile, is not bleak for Grammy organizers.
While TV ratings sank to their lowest level since 1997, the show itself got decent notices, including an on-air endorsement by U2's Bono, who declared it the "best Grammys I've ever seen."
"There's something to be said for a three-and-a-half hour awards show that seems like only three," Paul Brownfield wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
Brownfield lauded the show's "classier feel," and its intergenerational pairings, including Usher and James Brown, and Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone.
Etheridge's bold bald-is-beautiful statement--she's undergoing treatment for breast cancer--was noted almost universally as a high point of the telecast. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's duet was not.
Variety's David Sprague called it "mortifyingly soap-operalike." Reuters' Sue Zeidler charitably wrote off the married couple's love song as "melodramatic."