'Big Bang Theory' delivers best ratings ever: Will it topple 'Idol'?

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Big Bang Theory has done it again.

The CBS comedy delivered series-high ratings across the board Thursday night for its episode that featured the cast riffing on Star Trek: The Next Generation. We’re taking 19.8 million viewers and a dizzying 6.3 adult demo rating at 8 p.m. Big Bang Theory out-delivered Fox’s American Idol a few times in the demo last season. Could the hit comedy topple TV’s long-running top-rated series outright to rank No. 1 for the season? It’s possible given Idol‘s ratings trajectory in recent years and Big Bang‘s surging. Idol averaged an 8.9 in the demo last year on Wednesdays and 7.7 on Thursdays; Big Bang is currently at a 6.4.

Also hitting a series-high rating last night: ABC’s Scandal (8.4 million, 2.8). This Shonda Rhimes political soap, which launched last year in midseason, has really impressed. Despite fairly modest ratings when it launched, Scandal‘s numbers have been slowly but semi-steadily creeping upward throughout its run. That’s rare, especially nowadays. It takes a pretty masterful showrunner to claw a broadcast drama up the charts in the current brutal broadcast environment. NBC essentially surrendering its 10 p.m. slot by airing Rock Center with Brian Williams in the hour this season has doubtless helped.

Meanwhile, the time-period premiere of NBC’s 1600 Penn delivered … oh how do we put this? About 74 percent less than Big Bang. The White House sitcom had 3.9 million viewers and a 1.6 rating. That’s 6 percent lower than Parks & Rec‘s modest average in the slot.

Though Big Bang performed amazingly well, the rest of CBS’ lineup took a slight dip, with Two and a Half Men, Person of Interest and Elementary down a tad from last week when they aired against repeats. On ABC, Last Resort returned (ABC promises the show will deliver a satisfying conclusion during its upcoming series finale), while Grey’s Anatomy perked up slightly compared to its last original a month ago.

UPDATE: In the final national ratings released this afternoon, Big Bang went up even higher. Get this 20 million viewers and a 6.4 in the demo.

Full chart:

 ADULT DEMO RANK  ADULTS 18-49 RATING  TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)
FOX 8-9P MOBBED S #11t 1.2 3,277
9-10P GLEE R #14 0.7 2,034
ABC 8-9P LAST RESORT #11t 1.2 5,786
9-10P GREY ANATOMY #4 3.1 9,219
10-11P SCANDAL #5 2.8 8,368
CBS 8:00P BIG BANG #1 6.3 19,782
8:30P TWO&HALF MEN #2 4.2 14,341
9-10P PERSON INTEREST #3 3.3 15,563
10-11P ELEMENTARY #6 2.4 11,333
NBC 8:00P 30 ROCK #9t 1.4 3,770
8:30P 1600 PENN RS #9t 1.4 3,927
9:00P OFFICE #7 2.2 4,534
9:30P 1600 PENN P #8 1.6 3,852
10-11P ROCK-WLLMS #13 1.1 3,766
CW 8-10P CRITIC AWARDS S #15 0.6 1,925
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