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What the Chuck? ‘Great Pumpkin’ Falls to Third in Ratings

The Peanuts gang, usually a reliable performer for ABC, falls behind ”The Biggest Loser“ and an ”NCIS“ rerun.

Good grief: According to Nielsen, America seems to have fallen out of love with "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

ABC’s annual telecast of the beloved holiday special Tuesday lost about 20 percent of its adults 18-49 audience from last year, sinking to a 2.7/7 in the demo (from a 3.4 last fall). It was also down in viewers, from 10.4 million in 2008 to 8.9 million, according to Nielsen.

What’s more distressing is that "Great Pumpkin" finished third in its 8 p.m. timeslot, behind NBC’s slot-leading "The Biggest Loser" and a repeat of "NCIS" on CBS. The animated gem did squeak by the first hour of Fox’s "So You Think You Can Dance," though the two shows tied in the 8:30 half hour.

Just two years ago, in 2007, "Great Pumpkin" averaged a 3.8/11 in the demo and 11.4 million viewers, winning its slot.

The Peanuts gang is probably being hurt by the fact that it now faces two very family-friendly reality shows ("Loser" and "Dance"). The special is also now widely available on DVD, sold at Target for under $15.

There’s also the DVR effect — viewers might have recorded the special last night in order to play it back on Halloween, after trick or treating.

And never rule out the reliable "WTF Nielsen" factor: Trying to find logic in the rating giant’s numbers is often simply impossible.

On the bright side, "Great Pumpkin" did dramatically improve the timeslot for ABC, which had been airing the reality show "Shark Tank" in the hour. Next week, "V" arrives to do battle with the losers and dancers and lighthearted crimesolvers.