A veritable clash of civilisations last night. A game show on Ten vs Aussie drama on Nine. A US supernatural series on Seven vs a gruff, bluff medico on Ten. Unshaven criminals on the run on Seven vs Anthony LaPaglia on Nine. Well, how did they do? Ten has a lemon on its hands called The Con Test (geddit?) with 1.009 million, beaten by McLeod’s Daughters (1.18 million) and also beaten by a repeat of Border Security on Seven (1.11 million). The Con Test was a bit like Australia’s Brainiest on Ten (you fill in the category): contestants standing in front of what looked like an old Game Boy console on stilts. The rush music stings were a bit overpowering, like they are on Seven’s The Rich List, there is no tension and rivals The Rich List and 1 vs 100 are vastly more entertaining. Over on Nine the girls (and boys) of McLeod’s Daughters were predictable but it was well made: a nice dramatic fire in a shearing sheds for the first episode; lots of sheep baa-ing, smoke and a fire which took hold but didn’t progress. All that lanolin and other stuff in the wooden floor and beams and the fire slowed until the actors could catch up. Hmmmm? — Glenn Dyer

A case for Without A Trace or Cold Case? Life is going to be tough in this slot this year. And we all knew what House was going to be like on Ten last night and it didn’t disappoint: he survived the shooting, seemingly smelling the flowers and has had a change of life? Viewers liked it and it topped the night with 1.58 million, just in front of Heroes on Seven with 1.5 million which needs to get a move along. It was slow. Last night’s audience was off 600,000 from the debut a week before, which was to be expected with House on Ten in the same timeslot. Nine though has problems, with Cold Case and Without a Trace both off their 2006 averages. — Glenn Dyer

Sunday night TV wars. The Nine Network’s hopes of still winning its strongest night of the week, Sunday, have taken a dive with Seven last night revealing its line up for its weakest night of the week, Sunday. Seven is running Australia You’ve Got Talent at 6.30pm, the much talked about new US comedy, Ugly Betty, at 7.30, Grey’s Anatomy at 8.30 pm and the new US series, What About Brian, at 9.30pm. It has junked its Sunday night movie which failed to make a dent on Nine’s most popular program last year, CSI. But Grey’s Anatomy, Seven’s most popular show from last year and the most popular drama on TV (narrowly edging out House on Ten and CSI), will make the difference. It will split the night at 8.30 cutting the usually strong ratings Nine gets with CSI. 60 Minutes returns at 7.30 on the same night, 18 February and will give Ugly Betty a run for its money but don’t be surprised if Betty does very well, especially with younger, predominantly female viewers. Ugly Betty will also put pressure on Ten’s Sunday night “weigh-in” episode of The Biggest Loser. Nine won’t introduce its normal Sunday night lineup this Sunday evening because of the second One Day International cricket final on Sunday. So Seven is running dead, like it did on Tuesday evenings with the England-NZ decider. Running Grey’s Anatomy on Sunday night is an enormous switch of strategy by Seven: in 2005 and last year it ran Grey’s Anatomy after Desperate Housewives finished its season. Seven now believes it will have more than enough to finish the year on Monday nights (Criminal Minds and Bones for instance, and the local police drama coming out of Melbourne).

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: No one could complain about not having choice on TV, especially those in the pay TV business; last night viewers watched a medical series, a supernatural thingie, a gameshow, the inventors program, an Aussie drama and assorted other programming including the usual news and current affairs from 6 pm onwards. 15 programs with a million or more viewers, a sign of the viewing options available last night. It was a full-on ratings battle with only the repeat of Border Security at 7.30pm on Seven the only weak bullet. But there were others. House on Ten returned and returned to number one on Wednesdays with 1.581 million viewers, just in front of Seven’s Heroes with 1.5 million, down around 600,000 from its premiere. Seven’s Serious Crash Unit from NZ at 8pm averaged 1.341 million, Seven News, 1.307 million, Today Tonight, 1.259 million and then Nine News in sixth slot with 1.239 million. A Current Affair was seventh with 1.190 million, McLeod’s Daughters was next with 1.181 million, Cold Case was ninth with 1.168 million and the repeat of Border Security was tenth with 1.114 million. Prison Break On The Run on Seven at 9.30 dropped several hundred thousand viewers to average 1.097 million.

The Losers: Well, can’t put The Con Test in there yet: it’s only one episode, but 7.30pm Wednesdays isn’t going to get any easier. McLeod’s Daughters also left wondering about its future. 2007 might just see it out. Certainly no money spent freshening it. It has the same look and feel as last year. Where’s the drought? Why is the place so green? It’s based in South Australia which up to three weeks ago was being burnt alive by the dry! Deal or No Deal on Seven at 5.30 pm, 762,000, Bert’s Family Feud on Nine at the same time, 516,000. Not failures but not at full steam either. Ten News At Five is though! Will we see viewers become game show-shy this year? There are too many of them on TV. The New Inventors on the ABC, 828,000 and it was looking a bit same old, same old as well. Money’s too tight to mention in some networks?

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally as did Today Tonight but it was narrow and Nine is a bit more competitive in the key Sydney market. Seven News won by 68,000 nationally and 111,000 in Perth. Seven won Perth, and Brisbane. Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Today Tonight won by 68,000 nationally and 58,000 in Perth. Today Tonight shared Sydney with ACA, won Melbourne, lost Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Nine is lifting its game in Sydney. The 7pm ABC News with more than a million couldn’t boost The 7.30 Report which averaged 797,00. Ten News was solid with 914,000. The Late News/Sports Tonight averaged 453,000 at 10.30pm, Nine’s Nightline, 349,000 at 11.30pm. World News Australia on the SBS, 222,000 for the 6.30pm broadcast, 192,000 for the half hour from 9.30pm. Lateline on the ABC at 10.45pm, 199,000; Lateline Business at 11.20pm, 108,000. In the morning, Sunrise under 400,000 with 376,000, and Today, 249,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 30.3% (38.8% a week ago) from Nine with 27.3% (22.1%), Ten with 25.0% (18.8%), the ABC with 13.1% (14.5%) and SBS with 4.3% (5.8%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, Nine won Brisbane and Adelaide. Nine leads the week 30.6% to 27.7%. In regional areas Nine through WIN/NBN won with 30.7% from Prime/7Qld with 27.9%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 23.2%), the ABC with 13.7% and SBS with 4.4%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Nine did OK, but that’s all. It’s share will fall once Seven returns fresh Border Security episodes to the 7.30pm timeslot, unless we are going cold on enforcement related observational docos (such as Nine’s The Code). Ten has to do something to The Con Test. It’s just plain and uninteresting. Although the questions were harder in most cases than The Rich List or on Eddie’s show. McLeod’s Daughters time is coming. Tonight it’s two episodes of My Name Is Earl on Seven from 8pm to 9.10pm. After, How I Met Your Mother resumes at 7.30pm. Lost returns at 9.10. It could be a gamble, viewers are used to 8.30pm starts. Nine has another Getaway (in the McLeod’s Daughters class, or is it the other way round?) then Missing Person’s Unit then RPA. Ten has the two Law And Orders from 8.30pm, Jamie Oliver is at home at 7.30pm but I will be watching the multi-millionaires battle it out on The 7.30 Report with Kerry O’Brien moderating. Will there be a worm, are the ABC studios large enough for the three egos, even if one or two of them are in Canberra? That should be a bit of sport. All those clichés about hot air and climate change!

Peter Fray

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