'Two and a Half Men' vs. 'DWTS' vs. 'House': Monday timeslot smackdown

men-vs-dwts-vs-house.jpgThe official start of the 2011-12 TV season is upon us. DVRs will be getting a serious workout on pretty much every night of the week, and we're going to look at a few time periods where the battle for eyeballs might be particularly fierce.

How curious are you about Ashton Kutcher's debut on "Two and a Half Men"? Will you remain curious after Monday's (Sept. 19) season premiere? Can "Dancing With the Stars" keep holding your interest? And what about "House" -- remember him?

Those are the Monday-night questions we have going into the start of the season. It's a competitive night across the board, but we're focusing on the 9 p.m. ET hour, where things could get seriously rough between ABC, CBS and FOX, all of which have veteran shows that have historically performed quite well.

The incumbent(s): "Dancing With the Stars" had a great 2010-11 season, scoring sizable gains in total viewers (22 million for the Monday performance show) and adults 18-49 (4.9 rating, up from 4.4 the previous season). Reaction to the new cast, though, has been somewhat muted. We doubt "DWTS" will get beaten in total viewers -- at least in the long term -- but its 18-49 rating could slip some.

If that happens, "Two and a Half Men" could regain its demographic edge (which it lost last year thanks in part to the abbreviated season. We're all but certain "Men" will do a big premiere number Monday as people tune in to see A) how the show writes Charlie Sheen out of the picture and B) how Kutcher will do as Sheen's replacement.

But we're also guessing that after the initial curiosity wears off, its numbers will return to earth some. Still, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see CBS comedy score the top spot among adults 18-49 for the fall. (And if that happens, expect "Mike & Molly" to get a bump too. In fact, given Melissa McCarthy's Emmy win and the attention she got from "Bridesmaids," that might happen anyway.)

The newcomer: "New" is a relative term here, because "House" is entering its eighth season. But it's aired at 8 p.m. Mondays for the past several years, so the move to 9 o'clock is something different (the more family-focused "Terra Nova" will air at 8). FOX has wisely held the show's season premiere until Oct. 3, outside the premiere-week crush. Still, "House's" numbers have been on the wane in the past couple seasons. If it matches or even comes close to its averages for last season (10.3 million viewers, 3.9 in 18-49), FOX will probably be happy.

The others: "The Sing-Off" made a big jump last year in its second run as a concentrated, two-week competition. But that was against much lesser competition in December. It will have tough sledding against "DWTS," but we're betting on at least a slight upgrade from what "The Event" did for NBC at 9 on Mondays last season.

Amid all that, The CW's dramedy "Hart of Dixie" will try to get a toehold. "Gossip Girl" averaged a modest 1.6 million viewers in the 9 p.m. slot last season and will now serve as "Hart of Dixie's" lead-in; both shows premiere Sept. 26.

What will you be watching at 9 on Mondays this fall? How do you see the ratings race playing out?

Photo/Video credit: CBS, ABC, FOX
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