If your television show revolves around a search for someone missing, it helps to have Ashley Judd looking.
That's ABC's lesson from Nielsen's television ratings. Last Thursday's premiere of the network drama "Missing," starring Judd as a former CIA agent trying to find a teenage son who disappeared in Rome, landed among the 10 most popular series last week with 10.6 million viewers. The strong sampling came despite "Missing" competing directly with Fox's "American Idol."
Meanwhile, ABC's newish drama "The River," involving a family's hunt for a naturalist missing in the Amazon region, landed at No. 73 on Nielsen's list with an audience of 4.1 million. The man's family does not include Ashley Judd.
Sunday's season finale of "Walking Dead" was a smash for AMC with 9 million viewers, setting a basic cable record among younger demographics. Yet it's worth remembering there's still a difference between network and basic cable: Eight dramas on network TV had larger audiences last week, including reruns of "NCIS" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."
"Missing" and the season finale of "The Bachelor" led ABC to a second-place showing for the week, as the network averaged 6.8 million viewers (4.4 rating, 7 share). A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
CBS, as it usually does, led the way with an 8.1 million viewer average (5.1, 9).
Behind the sagging but still dominant "American Idol," Fox was third with an average of 6.6 million viewers (3.9, 7). NBC averaged 5.5 million viewers (3.5, 6), the CW had 1.4 million (0.9, 1) and ION Television had 1.1 million (0.7, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.6 million viewer average (1.9 rating, 3 share). Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura had 670,000 (0.3, 1), Estrella had 210,000 (0.1, 0) and Azteca had 140,000 (also 0.1, 0).
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.1 million viewers (5.4, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.3 million (5.0, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.9 million viewers (4.0, 8). As is typical, the onset of daylight saving time has cut into evening news viewership.
For the week of March 12-18, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 18.38 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 16.02 million; "The Voice," NBC, 14.52 million; "NCIS," CBS, 12.98 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 11.71 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 11.43 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 11.33 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 10.8 million; "Missing," ABC, 10.603 million; "Modern Family," ABC, 10.6 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is a unit of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.