RATINGS: ‘Big Bang’ Blows Up, Underwood Breaks Curse

CBS’s comedy hit has biggest episode yet, prompting more speculation it could be headed for a post-Super Bowl slot

 "The Big Bang Theory" just keeps getting bigger: CBS’s comedy smash soared to its highest-rated broadcast ever last night, making a post-Super Bowl appearance increasingly logical.

Against atypical competition– a Carrie Underwood holiday special on Fox, a repeat "Law & Order: SVU" on NBC– Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s geek-centric half-hour rocketed to a 5.7 rating/13 share at 9:30 Monday. That’s the best demo rating ever for the show, and better than the 5.1 scored by lead-in "Two and a Half Men," according to fast national Nielsen data.

"Bang" was easily the highest-rated show of the night in the young adult demo and could easily end up the No. 1 non-sports telecast of the week. (Ratings could come down a tick since one CBS affiliated aired a football game last night, possibly skewing the numbers a tad).

Among all viewers, "Men" was still the night’s top show with an audience of 15.1 million pairs of eyeballs. "Bang" averaged 14.7 million viewers, finishing second.

The amazing "Bang" performance comes as there’s increasing speculation that CBS will choose to air an episode of the series after its February broadcast of the Super Bowl. Rival network executives believe such a move is a no-brainer, given the broad appeal of the show, the potential for guest stars and the fact that exposure after the game could take "Bang" to an even higher level.

CBS, as always, has erected a cone of silence around its decision-making process, making any guesses about the network’s plans just that– guesses. Leslie Moonves, the Eye’s supreme leader, will make the final call on the post-Super Bowl show; a decision could come before the holiday in order to give producers time to craft a special episode.

(Of course, if CBS chooses to go a different route– airing the premiere of the 20th edition of "Survivor," for example– a decision might not be announced until January, since no special preparation would be needed).

As for the atypical competition, Fox’s Underwood holiday special didn’t blow up but it did break the curse of recent variety specials (i.e., Rosie O’Donnell, the Osbournes), which have generated disastrous numbers.

Underwood’s two-hour show averaged a 2.3 between 8-10 p.m, beating NBC in the 8 p.m. hour and both ABC and NBC at 9. The special held most of its audience through the night and improved Fox’s performance vs. the same night last season by double digits.

NBC didn’t do much business with "SVU" repeats, but ABC’s repeat of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" held its own, ranking second at 8 p.m. in adults 18-49. The network’s new reality series, "Find My Family," continues to struggle, dropping 10 percent to its lowest-rated episode yet.

On a more positive tip for ABC, the weak lead-in didn’t seem to hurt ABC’s "Castle," which — while down 15 percent from its last original broadcast– notched a respectable 2.3 demo rating at 10.

Still to come: Ratings for TNT’s much-touted "Men of a Certain Age." Check back later for updates.