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Touchdown! Super Bowl Commercials Already a Hit for CBS

Annual ad special pops a nice number, outperforming the Eye’s Wednesday sitcom average and raising the question: Why is “Old Christine” still on the air?

Everybody loves Super Bowl commercials — so why not make a weekly series out of them?

OK, so they’re probably not having that exact discussion at CBS this morning. But execs at the network no doubt did a bit of a double take after seeing the eye-popping numbers for Wednesday’s "Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials."

The annual special won the 8 p.m. timeslot Wednesday with a 2.9/9 in adults 18-49 and a total audience of 11.2 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen data. That’s a major improvement over what CBS normally averages in the hour with first-run comedies "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" (both generally average in the low 2s among younger demos).

CBS tends to bury "Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials" on a Friday or Saturday in years when the big game is broadcast on another network. But this year, since the Bowl is on the Eye, the special got upgraded to a fancy Wednesday timeslot and generated its best numbers since 2007 — yes, that’s the last year CBS aired the Super Bowl.

Bob Horowitz, executive Producer of “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials," said the ratings show "the power of Super Bowl ads can successfully extend into prime time."

This isn’t the first time CBS viewers have responded positively to one-off specials on Wednesday. The Eye has done well the past two years by airing the hidden camera hour "I Get That a Lot" in the 8 p.m. Wednesday slot, which also dramatically improved over the performance of scripted sitcoms.

Perhaps it’s time to give Dick Clark Productions a call and see about reviving "TV’s Funniest Bloopers & Practical Jokes."

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s other interesting number was the rating for "American Idol," which moved into its 9 p.m. timeslot this week. It earned a 7.7/21 in the demo and brought in about 20.8 million viewers overall.

Assuming the numbers don’t change when nationals are issued later Thursday, this will be the least-watched episode of "Idol" since April 7, 2004. In the demo, however, it was only the lowest "Idol" since last April 29.

It’s worth noting that last night’s "Idol" was something of a recap special, mixing old and new clips (and a "Pants on the Ground" montage). And that Fox had originally planned to air "Idol" at 8 in this timeslot and "Human Target" at 9.

In any event, ABC’s "Modern Family" held up quite nicely opposite the "Idol" juggernaut. It averaged a 3.9/10 in the demo — down a scant 7 percent vs. its last first-run episode (when it faced "Human Target" instead of "Idol.")

Speaking of "Target," its numbers were meh in its 8 p.m. debut. It averaged a 2.4/7 and finished third in the slot.

Of course, it faced off against those darn Super Bowl ads on CBS, so….

UPDATED 12:56 PM WITH HOROWITZ QUOTE