NBC's farewell to Will & Grace came up big Thursday, helping to give the network a rare nightlong win among adults 18-49.
The veteran comedy averaged 18.1 million viewers and an 8.1 rating/20 share in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic from 9-10 p.m., according to preliminary ratings estimates from Nielsen Media Research.
That almost equaled the demo score of CSI (8.2/20), not only the night's traditional winner but also regularly the top-scripted show on TV. However, the CBS crime drama easily pulled in more viewers overall (25.1 million).
At 10 p.m., the 12th season finale of ER finale drew a season high of 16.7 million viewers, and a 7.2/19, enough to give NBC the night in adults 18-49 (6.8/19 vs 5.9/16 for CBS).
But CBS won the viewership race as usual, bolstered at 10 p.m. by Without a Trace (19.5 million, 6.0/16). Its nightly average was 19.5 million versus 15.8 million for NBC.
NBC devoted two hours to Will & Grace. At 8 p.m., a one-hour retrospective of the show's eighth season won the time period in the demo (12.6 million, 5.1/16), although a CSI repeat (13.9 million, 3.7/11) beat it in viewership.
Also putting in a strong showing at 8 p.m. was Fox's hour-long series finale of That '70s Show, which averaged 9.2 million viewers and a 4.3/13 in the demo. But ABC's American Inventor couldn't create anything more than a fourth place finish, with 5.1 million viewers and a 1.7/5 in the demo for its first hour. (Its second hour rose only slightly, averaging 6.6 million viewers and a 2.4/6).