Ratings: Lights flickers, Mars orbits

NBC's critically acclaimed drama Friday Night Lights premiered to weak ratings last night, scoring 7.2 million total viewers and landing third in its timeslot. CW's Veronica Mars returned for its third season with a new intro, snaring a 1.4 rating in 18 to 49s.

Lights, which received better reviews than any show this season, scored a 2.7 rating in 18 to 49 year olds. The football drama was outdistanced by ABC's Dancing With the Stars and CBS's crime drama NCIS.

Lights didn't even have to go up against Fox's usual timeslot competitor, House, due to the beginning of baseball playoffs. So far, despite the peacock having three of the best-reviewed shows of the season--Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, Heroes, and Lights--only Heroes has scored ratings in line with its accolades.

CW detective drama Veronica Mars matched its best-ever ratings in the 18 to 49 demographic with its season-three premiere. Aside from the new intro, the show was subtly muted in tone, with a different color palette and low-key acting.

At the TCA in July, show creator Rob Thomas said he wanted the characters to grow up now that they were in college--it remains to be seen if the fans will agree.

At 8 p.m., Dancing with the Stars handily won with a 4.9 rating, with CBS and NCIS arresting a 4.0 (its best numbers this season), and NBC fumbling the ball with Friday Night Lights at a 2.7. Fox's New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers playoff game scored a 2.1/3 and Gilmore Girls earned a 2.0 for The CW.

ABC and the last half-hour of Dancing won at 9 p.m. with a 5.7, NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent with a 4.2, CBS and The Unit at 4.1, Fox and baseball at 2.9, and Mars at 1.4. At 9:30, Help Me Help You helped ABC to a 3.1.

Mars delivered its third highest-rated telecast ever among adults 18-34, its second best telecast ever in adults 18-49, and its fourth most watched episode ever (3.3 million viewers) since its debut in 2004.

At 10 p.m., NBC landed with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at 5.2, followed by ABC's Boston Legal at 2.9, and CBS's Smith at 2.8.

Overall, ABC led with a 9.5/15, followed by CBS at 7.8/12, NBC at 7.5/12, Fox at 5.1/8, and CW at 2.7/4.

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