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Highest Friday 'Defenders' rating yet

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Poor Defenders. The CBS legal drama struggled on Wednesday nights this fall, then was pushed into the sink-or-swim Friday night block where its typically ranked as the network’s lowest-rated show. Well, last night Defenders (8.6 million viewers, 1.5 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) jumped 25 percent and finally delivered a number in this slot that was, well, defensible. Defenders ranked as the second-highest rated program of the night.

Why did it improve? Kathy Griffin was a guest star, but that seems pretty unlikely to have boosted anything. It was probably because Fox didn’t air usual time period winner Kitchen Nightmares and instead opted for the 42nd annual NAACP Image Awards (2.3 million, 0.6), which easily ranked as the lowest-rated program of the night. You wouldn’t think Gordon Ramsay’s reality show and a CBS procedural would necessarily draw the same audience, but there you go. (The NAACP telecast also meant no Fringe this week).

Otherwise it was a sleepy Friday, with Smallville (2.2 million, 1.0) and Supernatural (2.2 million, 1.0) steady. NBC’s Dateline (6.8 million, 1.8) jumped 29 percent and topped the night.