By James Hibberd
Updated March 22, 2013 at 04:20 PM EDT
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When American Idol season 12 premiered lower in the ratings than last year, that was to be expected — returning weaker has been the show’s trend for several years.

When Idol numbers dipped after the show moved from auditions to the Hollywood rounds, that was also to be expected too — the reality veteran’s ratings tend to sag during the middle portion of its run every year.

But Idol is dropping nearly every week and last night was down 50 percent from its Thursday night premiere this season … and that’s scary.

Thursday’s Idol fell another 7 percent down to 11.7 million viewers and a 2.8 rating among adults 18-49. Again: a 2.8 rating. For the first time ever, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy topped Idol in these early numbers. Hell, Scandal nearly tied Idol!

Here’s Idol‘s Wednesday night track in the demo since its debut this season: 6.0, 5.5, 5.5, 4.6, 4.3, 4.1, 3.9, 3.8, 3.8, 3.6. While Thursday’s trend has been: 5.6, 5.2, 4.5, 4.1, 3.7, 3.9, 3.8, 3.6, 3.1 and then last night’s preliminary 2.8, down 33 percent from last year’s airing this week. The only time the show’s ratings have gone up this season was the week after Valentine’s Day (which is a traditionally soft night for TV viewing).

Elsewhere on the grid: ABC’s regular-folks version of Wife Swap was up from its last season premiere. Grey’s was up 12 percent. A special 1600 Penn at 8:30 was softer than Parks and Recreation in the slot. CW’s Vampire Diaries perked up a tenth for last night’s punk rock episode.

Full Chart:

ADULT DEMO RANK

ADULTS 18-49 RATING

TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)

FOX

8-9P

AMERICAN IDOL

#2

2.8

11,652

9-10P

GLEE

#4

2.0

5,893

ABC

8-9P

WIFE SWAP

P

#6

1.7

5,004

9-10P

GREY ANATOMY

#1

2.9

9,107

10-11P

SCANDAL

#3

2.7

8,570

CBS

8-930P

NCAA

S

#5

1.9

5,757

9:30P

NCAA

S

#7

1.5

4,345

10-11P

NCAA

S

#8t

1.2

3,299

NBC

8:00P

COMMUNITY

#10t

1.1

3,025

8:30P

1600 PENN

S

#12t

0.9

2,541

9:00P

OFFICE

R

#12t

0.9

2,314

9:30P

1600 PENN

#14

0.8

2,289

10-11P

LAW&SVU

R

#10t

1.1

4,216

CW

8-9P

VAMPIRE DIARIES

#8t

1.2

2,554

9-10P

BEAUTY&BEAST

#15

0.7

1,773

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