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Much room for improvement: Grading the 2006-07 seasons of the six major networks

Just three new series -- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (Fox); Heroes (NBC) and Shark (CBS) -- made Nielsen's top 30 in the 2006-'07 TV season. But Heroes hit the top 10 with 18-to-49-year-olds.

More viewer dropoffs marked the 2006-07 TV season, with none of the six major networks holding on to all of what they had a year ago.

Fox and Univision came close, though, with the Spanish language network moving into fifth place ahead of the new CW in both total viewers and advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

Here are unclebarky.com's end-of-season report cards, with the differences from the 2005-06 season in parentheses. (Source: Nielsen Media Research's final national numbers).

Total Viewers -- 1st with 12.18 million (minus 380,000)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 2nd with 4.67 million (minus 250,000)

Rundown -- CBS' three-pronged CSI franchise remained strong, but the fourth-ranked Thursday night mothership lost a whopping 5.3 million viewers from last season in direct competition with ABC's transplanted Grey's Anatomy.

The two latest editions of Survivor also dropped out of the Top 10. Two and a Half Men remained strong, losing less than a million viewers from last season. Astonishingly, it's the only network sitcom to rank in Nielsen's top 30.

Just two new series -- Shark and Rules of Engagement -- will live to see second seasons. So replenishing the pump is vital.

Grade: C+

Total Viewers -- 2nd with 10.19 million (plus 130,000)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 1st with 5.13 million (minus 190,000)

Rundown -- The two editions of American Idol again ranked one-two in prime-time. For the first time, though, Idol's audience levels sagged down the stretch, with overall ratings dropping slightly from last season's in both total viewers and among 18-to-49-year-olds.

House ranked 9th, its highest finish ever. It also had a slight increase in viewership, a rarity these days.

Fox also turned out a cost-efficient new hit in Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and used an Idol lead-in to save Brad Garrett's new 'Til Death from cancellation.

24 slumped both creatively and in the ratings while Prison Break failed to improve on its first-season numbers despite a major promotional push and a new North Texas locale. Fridays remained a mess, and again will be totally rebuilt in the fall.

Grade: B


Total Viewers -- 3rd with 9.71 million (minus 1.06 million)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 3rd with 4.43 million (minus 690,000)

Rundown -- ABC made a lone masterstroke, moving Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays opposite CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The sexually charged hospital drama suffered a comparatively slight erectile dysfunction (down one million viewers) while taking five times that many away from CSI while while easily beating it among 18-to-49-year-olds.

Dancing with the Stars also scored big, finishing with more momentum than American Idol. The new Ugly Betty made ratings inroads on a highly competitive Thursday night, but audiences drooped in the season's second half. Another freshman, Brothers & Sisters performed well enough in its post-Desperate Housewives slot to be invited back.

ABC otherwise struggled, with the third seasons of Desperate Housewives and Lost lagging well behind their sophomore years. The network again struggled on the comedy front, and had to issue early pink slips to a trio of high-profile serial dramas -- The Nine, Six Degrees and Day Break.

Overall ABC suffered the sharpest year-to-year audience dropoffs of any network despite renewing five new series.

Grade: C

Total Viewers -- 4th with 8.66 million (minus 1.02 million)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 4th with 3.90 million (minus 340,000)

Rundown -- Sometimes quality only counts in horseshoes. And only one critically praised NBC series -- Heroes -- delivered big audiences last season. It ranked ninth with 18-to-49-year-olds, easily the best show of any new series. And Heroes finished 22nd in the total viewer Nielsens, giving the Peacock its only scripted show in the top 30.

Much-praised newcomers Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock have been renewed despite sickly ratings. And NBC's holdover comedy gems -- My Name Is Earl, The Office and Scrubs -- respectively ranked 66th, 80th and -- yikes -- 125th in the overall prime-time Nielsens.

NBC got an early season boost from its new package of Sunday Night NFL games, which finished in a 10th place tie with Desperate Housewives. But the second-half of the season proved abysmal, with Donald Trump's The Apprentice falling flat amid failed newcomers such as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, You're the One That I Want and The Black Donnellys.

It all left the Peacock mired in fourth place for the third straight season, with no end to its woes in sight despite last week's surprise executive shakeup. But at least it failed by trodding the high road.

Grade: C

Total Viewers -- 5th with 3.63 million (minus 170,000)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 5th with 2.06 million (minus 70,000)

Rundown -- Let's look at this way. Univision's five nights of its Fea Mas Bella telenovela averaged roughly the same numbers of viewers per episode as the CW's hottest show, America's Next Top Model. And they drew more viewers than series such as Fox's The O.C. and CW's Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Friday Night Smackdown! and 7th Heaven.

Those are eye-opening numbers, and the gap between Univision and the Big Five broadcasters likely will only close in the coming years. Even more disconcerting for CBS, Fox, etc.: Univision grinds out programming on the cheap, but the telenovela audiences appear to be rock-solid loyal. And not going away.

Grade: B

The CW
Total Viewers -- 6th with 3.12 million (minus 3.1 million from the ashes of The WB and UPN)
18-to-49-Year-Olds -- 1.66 million (minus 1.66 million)

Rundown -- The new network had a grand plan to cut costs and losses while absorbing the best series from WB and UPN. That didn't work. CW is drawing just half of what those two networks had. And none of its shows has benefited in ratings from this downsizing.

Cases in point: Everybody Hates Chris averaged 4.3 million viewers on UPN and 2.7 million on CW. Supernatural averaged 3.9 million viewers on WB and 3 million on CW. And so on.

Grade: F