James Hibberd
March 20, 2012 AT 03:41 PM EDT

Dancing With the Stars judges may have given Monday’s dancers the best performance scores ever for a premiere, but fans gave the show its lowest Nielsen ratings ever for a debut episode.

The ratings drop is not really a surprise. The veteran reality show returned up against NBC’s fresher reality hit The Voice, and lacked buzz-worthy tabloid names this spring (Katherine Jenkins, William Levy, Melissa Gilbert, yawn… the secret to casting Dancing is having hot-button names like Bristol Palin, The Situation, Nancy Grace and Chaz Bono, celebrities that a large number of Americans have strong feelings about, positive or negative).

Dancing delivered 18.5 million viewers and a 3.5 rating in the adult demo, down 34 percent from last spring and off 13 percent from last fall. At least the two-hour Dancing helped boost Castle (16.3 million, 2.4) up 14 percent, but that wasn’t quite enough to win 10 p.m.

The big winner last night was The Voice (11.8 million, 4.5 — and, yes, as always, we’re going off the adult demo here because that’s what advertisers and networks, whether we like it or not, base their decisions on; obviously among viewers of a certain age, Dancing was more popular). The Voice has held up strong overall during its battle rounds so far and easily crushed Dancing, though last night’s episode slipped 13 percent. Smash (6.7 million, 2.3) was down 4 percent.

CBS tied ABC for second place, its comedy block rising slightly in the first hour, declining a bit in the second hour: HIMYM (8.2 million, 3.4), 2 Broke Girls (9.2 million, 3.4), Two and a Half Men (11.3 million, 3.8), and Mike & Molly (9.8 million, 3.2). Hawaii Five-0 (9.1 million, 2.5) was steady.

Fox’s House (5.8 million, 2.0) was down 17 percent, while Alcatraz (5.1 million, 1.5) slipped another six percent. I could see Fox maybe taking a chance on Alcatraz for a Friday slot next fall, but even that might be a long shot at this point.

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