Baby Love! ‘Office’ and Solid ‘Marriage Ref’ Boost NBC

Fox still wins the night thanks to “American Idol.” But the Peacock has reason to be happy

Last Updated: March 5, 2010 @ 8:58 AM

Oh, baby! NBC looked sharp in its first Thursday of the post-primetime Leno era.

While the Peacock finished third for the night, it actually won the 9 and 10 p.m. hours with, respectively, "The Office" and "The Marriage Ref." The baby-ish hour-long edition of "The Office" beat "Grey’s Anatomy" for the first time ever in the adults 18-49 demo, while "Marriage Ref" beat dramas on ABC and CBS.

"The Office" (4.7/12) got an expected boost (27 percent, to be precise) from the delivery of the Halperin kid ("Everybody likes babies," one network wag predicted earlier this week). The NBC comedy beat both ABC’s "Grey’s" (4.0/11) and CBS’s very mortal (but still up 17 percent from its last original) "CSI" (3.7/10), according to Nielsen. Fox was fourth with "Kitchen Nightmares" (3.3/9).

With "Office" averaging a 4.9 in its final half-hour, "Marriage Ref" was able to score a 3.4/10 at 10, winning the hour vs. "The Mentalist" (3.2/9) and "Private Practice" (2.7/8).

Yes, "Ref" was down about 30 percent from its post-Olympics preview (4.9/14). And, like the other shows in the hour, it dropped at 10:30 p.m. It also got a big boost from an hour-long "Office" lead-in; the lower-rated "30 Rock" returns next week (though a Madonna guest visit could help inflate numbers for "Ref" next week).

But: "Ref" won the friggin’ timeslot, people. Given that NBC was brain-dead in this hour just a month ago, with Jay Leno averaging a 1.6, doubling the time period average is a very good thing. It’s not "Undercover Boss"-holy crap-we’ve-got-a-big-hit good, but it’s got to make today a good day at NBC. Actually, it’s not a good day at NBC: It’s a great day.

The real question is where "Ref" settles in, particularly once curiosity about the show wears off. If NBC can keep the show anywhere above a 2.5 rating, it’ll be back next season.

In any case, the reason this is all good news for NBC: It’s more evidence that the network didn’t mortally wound itself with the Leno-at-10 disaster. It lost precious time developing new hits, and created a PR nightmare. But the last few days have proven that viewers are still willing to check out its wares, no matter how abused they may feel by the Peacock.

As for the rest of the night, the 8 p.m. hour was all messed up thanks to the carpet-bagging "American Idol" (6.5/19), which won with the results show. Its number was the same as last week, despite the absence of the Olympics, and down about 10 percent from last season. Nonetheless, it was enough to boost Fox to a Thursday win overall.

"Survivor" (3.8/11) was second, up a tad from last week, and the highest rated show on CBS Thursday (again).

NBC’s "Community" (2.3/7) and "Parks & Rec" (2.3/6) were flat from their last originals. We’ll take flat, though those of you who didn’t watch this week’s "Community" missed a very, very funny hour. (Indulgent side note: If this show isn’t renewed, NBC will be a NoJoe Zone next fall. We mean it. And if you don’t think we can hold a grudge, ask somebody at CBS about "Swingtown".)