Tarantino CSI Tops Thursday

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One network has found the key to beating American Idol: Bury a guy in a Plexiglas coffin with a camera, a gun, some glow sticks, and a lot of hungry fire ants.

No, it wasn't a Fear Factor special, but CBS' Quentin Tarantino-directed two-hour CSI finale featuring the race to save a key cast member from that worse-than-death fate (did we mention the plastic explosives buried beneath the coffin?).

OK, it was only an American Idol worst-of special that CSI drubbed, but numbers in the last hour of TV's top scripted show would have been good enough to easily topple this week's real Idol.

CSI was packed with plenty of the kind of not-for-the-squeamish graphic content that both Tarantino and the forensic drama are noted for, including a particularly bloody autopsy, done in both black and white and color, and one villain--the shadowy figure looked like actor John Saxon--demonstrating the sort of suicide bombing that has become all to familiar in the real world.

In its second hour, CSI scored an impressive 12.2 rating/30 share average in the 18-49 demo in the Nielsen overnights. It built steadily from a 7.7/24 in its first half-hour to a 9.5/26 in its second, to an 11.6/29 in its third, to a 12.8/30 in the nail-biting last half-hour.

CBS won the night easily with a 9.2/24 in the demo, getting solid numbers from Without a Trace (7/18).

NBC was second on the night with a 6.6/17, powered by the season finale of ER (the exit of Noah Wiley), which averaged an 8.8/23.

Fox was a distant third at a 3.7/10 for The O.C. (3.4/10) and the "International Best of the Worst" edition of American Idol.

ABC was fourth with its coverage of the NBC playoffs, recording a 2.1/5.

In the battle of the netlets, UPN was the winner with a 1.5/4 for WWE Smackdown, while The WB averaged a 1.1./4 for a night of repeats plus one new Blue Collar TV.

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