The new TV season has two very clear winners so far: Two and a Half Men and NFL football.
Together, they account for the 15 top-rated programs this fall, according to stats released Thursday by the NFL.
No. 1 was the Sept. 19 Two and a Half Men premiere on CBS, with Ashton Kutcher replacing the terminated Charlie Sheen. About 28.7 million tuned in for the funeral of Sheen's bad-boy character, who apparently got pushed in front of a train by a peeved lover.
A close No. 2, according to the league and the Nielsen Co., was the late-afternoon Fox slot on Oct. 16, with 28.4 million.
One wrinkle, however: The description says "mostly Cowboys-Patriots," so alternate games on some affiliates, such as Saint-Bucs, were apparently included.
The next dozen spots were all NFL games, eight of them also qualified with "mostly."
Not so for four games, including the Sept. 18 Eagles-Falcons matchup, ranked at No. 8. It was one of three on NBC's Sunday Night Football. No. 3 overall was another exclusive, NBC's NBC Thursday Night Kickoff Game between the Saints and Packers on Sept. 8.
At No. 15 was the second Kutcher episode of Two and Half Men, Sept. 26, with 20.5 million viewers.
The sitcom has been slipping since. But football keeps going strong - with the six most-viewed shows so far this October.
Maybe tonight's Game 7 of the World Series (8:05 p.m. on Fox) can crack the list, following an 11-inning doozy of a victory by the St. Louis Cardinals over the Texas Rangers. According to early numbers, it scored nearly 20 million viewers Thursday night - close but no cigar. (Monday's Game 5 was outperformed by ABC's Dancing With the Stars.)
But can baseball beat the NFL this weekend?
Sunday Night Football (8:20 p.m., NBC) has a very promising matchup - the Philadelphia Eagles, led by highlight machine Michael Vick, against America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. It's the second appearance for each this season on the prime-time showcase, and millions more tuned in each time than for any game so far in this World Series.
When the Birds and Boys met last December on SNF, 25.7 million watched, setting a program record broken by the Cowboys-Jets on 9/11.