The most watched television programming last week involved such spectacles as frontal nudity, people embarrassing themselves before millions, and the prospect of someone getting fired – and that’s not counting the Super Bowl and its halftime show. Sure, the Patriots-Panthers game, along with Janet Jackson’s pierced nipple, drew the week’s biggest audience (89.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, and 59 million for the post-game show), but other unscripted competitions did very well, too. Though the ”Survivor: All-Stars” premiere held on to only a third of CBS’ Super Bowl audience, its 33.5 million viewers were enough to make it the third most-watched show of the week. Fox’s ”American Idol” scored big, drawing 29.6 million to Tuesday’s auditions (for a No. 4 finish) and 28.3 million on Wednesday (that episode was No. 5). NBC’s ”The Apprentice,” now moved out of ”Idol”’s Wednesday shadow, came in at No. 8 with 18.9 million Donald Trump acolytes, and the network’s ”Fear Factor” finished ninth (17.8 million). Of the week’s top 10 shows, only three were scripted (”Friends” at No. 6, ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” at No. 7, and ”Without a Trace” at No. 10).
Traditionally the year’s most watched program, the Super Bowl helped CBS more than double its average viewership to 25.3 million for the week. ”Idol” boosted Fox to a second-place finish, with an average of 9.8 million viewers. NBC was close behind with 9.4 million, while ABC was a distant fourth with 7.9 million. Reality competition was good to UPN, which drew 7.1 million viewers to ”America’s Next Top Model” and drove the network to a weekly average of 4 million, beating the WB’s 3.7 million.