CBS won Sunday night with a marathon Survivor finale that was able to unseat ABC and its usually dominant lineup of Desperate Housewives, with assists from Makeover: Home Edition and Boston Legal.
That's according to the Nielsen overnight numbers, but there is a caveat.
Because of the national ESPN NFL game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, ABC affiliates in those two top 10 markets had to run Housewives out of pattern (Philly at 7 p.m. before the game, WKLY Washington at well after midnight. Those absences hurt Housewives final number, though it is impossible to say whether their addition would have been enough to make up CB'S two-tenths-of-a-rating-point lead over ABC on the night.
Desperate Housewives won its time period and was the highest-rated show on the night with a 9.3/20 to a 7.9/17 for the final hour of the Survivor finale (the 10-11 Survivor was a reunion show). But ABC's other shows were not strong enough to woo viewers carrying a torch for CBS.
CBS won the night with a 6.1 rating/14 share in the key 18-49 demo on the strength of its three hours worth of Survivor (plus 60 Minutes).
ABC was a close second with a 5/9/14 for Funniest Videos, Makeover: Home Edition, Housewives and Boston Legal.
Fox was third with a 3.9/9 for a lineup that started at first and slid home.
Fox began the night auspiciously, winning the first half hour of prime (7-7:30) with an NFL football overrun that delivered a 6.4/18 rating to Malcolm. Malcolm held on to a 6.1/16 at 7:30-8, but the slippage had begun. The Simpson's averaged a 4.8/11, followed by a 3.2/7 for Arrested Development before the bottom dropped out with Big , Fat, Obnoxious Boss, which went from a 1.7/4 to a 1.6/3 before the night mercifully ended for the net at 10.
NBC could only manage a fourth-place finish with a 2.9/7 for Dateline, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Crossing Jordan.
The B was fifth with a .8/2 for Steve Harvey, Charmed, and The Molehill, oops, make that The Mountain, which averaged a nightly low .5/1.