<p>Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson of &quot;Empire&quot;</p>

Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson of "Empire"

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: Inexorable 'Empire' rise continues against 'Mentalist' finale

The CW's 'Arrow' and NBC's 'Chicago PD' rise

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

For the sixth straight week, FOX's "Empire" grew in viewers and for the fifth time in six weeks the odds-defying juggernaut rose among young viewers, joining the flat "American Idol" to help FOX dominate Wednesday in all measures.

Wednesday's series finale for "The Mentalist" was up from last week's episode in viewers, but down in the key demo, while "Modern Family," "Nashville" and "Stalker" were also down.

After finishing last week in a three-week 10 p.m. tie in the key demo, "Chicago PD" had first to itself after a nice bump, which was boosted by an up week for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." The CW's "Arrow" also rose.

On to the numbers...

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<p>The Season 3 premiere of &quot;Vikings&quot;</p>

The Season 3 premiere of "Vikings"

Credit: History

Review: History's 'Vikings' returns for Season 3 with something for everyone

From bearded macho-men to TV's fiercest female characters, there's a lot to like

History's "Vikings" returns for its third season on Thursday (February 19) night and through three episodes, I can safely say that Michael Hirst's saga of pillaging and migration remains everything it has been almost from its premiere. 

Over two seasons, "Vikings" has delivered solidly above-average thrills that exceed the requirements of its basic cable home. The show has a passionate audience already, but I'm reasonably sure there's a far larger audience out there that would get a kick out of "Vikings," because it really is one of those shows that check a wide number of demographic boxes.

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<p>Daniel Seavey of &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Daniel Seavey of "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - 'Showcase #1' - Meet half of the Top 24

Competitors take the stage at House of Blues in a new 'Idol' round

And now for something completely different.

Slightly different?

For the first time, "American Idol" is doing a Showcase Round, featuring solo performances from the Top 48. How will the performances be laid out? How will the judges make decisions based on the performances? How many performances are we actually going to see over the next two nights?

Click through and follow my recap of Wednesday's (February 18) show as we find out the answers together...

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<p>Haz Sleiman of &quot;Killing Jesus&quot;</p>

Haz Sleiman of "Killing Jesus"

Credit: National Geographic Channels/Kent Eanes

'Killing Jesus' Exclusive: First look at NatGeo's Jesus, Pilate and more

We have your first pictures of Haaz Sleiman, Kelsey Grammer and more

Back in late October, I spent three days hovering in the corners of The Temple in Jerusalem, or at least perched to the sides of an elaborate set in Ouarzazate, Morocco watching production on National Geographic's "Killing Jesus."

I saw Haaz Sleiman's Jesus cast out some money lenders, watched Rufus Sewell's Caiaphas try to stir a mob against Jesus and witnessed Kelsey Grammer in priestly robes go up and down the same set of steps a dozen times. 

The third NatGeo adaptation from Bill O'Reilly's "Killing" series was directed by Christopher Menual and written by Walon Green and its cast is about as eclectic as one could possibly imagine, featuring Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer as Pontius Pilate), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies as Annas), Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui as Herodias) and NBC Motorcycle Doctor (Eoin Macken as Herod Antipas).

I'll have much more on "Killing Jesus" as we get closer the Sunday, March 29 premiere date announced this morning by National Geographic. The three-hour telefilm will premiere in 171 countries in 45 languages.

But first, exclusive to HitFix, check out your first pictures of seven "Killing Jesus" stars/characters:

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<p>Tuesday&#39;s &quot;NCIS: New Orleans&quot;</p>

Tuesday's "NCIS: New Orleans"

Credit: CBS

TV Ratings: 'Fresh Off The Boat' rises, down 'NCIS' duo leads CBS Tuesday

'The Flash' beats NBC's 'Parks and Recreation' again

Fast National ratings for Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

"NCIS" and "NCIS: New Orleans" both dipped week-to-week, but CBS still swept Tuesday night for each primetime hour in all measures.

Beyond CBS, the night's top show was ABC's "Fresh Off The Boat," which improved on last week's 8 p.m. episode numbers, though the freshman comedy couldn't tease more than a so-so premiere out of "Repeat After Me." This was an important week for "Fresh Off The Boat," with NBC's "The Voice" likely to bulldoze the competition starting next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there were small upticks for FOX's 9 p.m. comedies and a small downtick for NBC's "About a Boy."

And the penultimate week of "Parks and Recreation," went up a little, but still couldn't compete with The CW's "The Flash."

On to the numbers...

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<p>Travis Fimmel of &quot;Vikings&quot;</p>

Travis Fimmel of "Vikings"

Credit: History

Interview: 'Vikings' creator Michael Hirst teases Season 3's prophecies, romance

Why will this be The Season of Floki?

History's "Vikings" returns on Thursday (February 19) night for the start of what looks to be its most ambitious season to date. 

When we left Travis Fimmel's Ragnar last season, he'd completed his ascension to king, but he still had lots of unfinished business, particularly Across the Pond with Linus Roache's King Ecbert. 

Season 3 finds Ragnar and friends holding things down at home, expanding their reach in England and, as series creator Michael Hirst has long teased, eying a raid on Paris.

Hirst is always one of my favorite interview subjects, but I tend to only get through a third of my questions when I get 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with the erudite Englishman, so I made sure to get a solid half-hour-plus when we sat down last month during the Television Critics Association press tour. 

In the wide-ranging conversation, we discuss Ragnar's unease ruling position, the prophecy that starts Season 3, the looming attack on Paris and the show's increasing interest in a slew of fantastic female characters, including Lagertha, Aslaug and a few new additions.

Hirst teases which characters have pivotal arcs this season and, on the second page, he gives a few spoilers for at least one key relationship that develops over the first three episodes of the season. 

It's a great conversation and I hope to have a review of "Vikings" before Thursday's premiere...

Check out the full Q&A...

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<p>Wayne&#39;s World</p>

Wayne's World

Credit: NBC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 267 - 'SNL 40,' 'Odd Couple' and more

Dan and Alan also discuss 'Jack & Triumph,' 'CitizenFour' and the Oscars


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls! Time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast. 

In this week's installment, we talked for a while about Sunday's "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" and we reviewed CBS' "The Odd Couple," Adult Swim's "Jack and Triumph" and then we talked a bit about presumptive Oscar frontrunner "CitizenFour," which will premiere on HBO next Monday.

Then we answered a bit of Listener Mail about John Oliver and "The Daily Show," a conversation that became instantly irrelevant when HBO renewed "Last Week Tonight" for two more seasons within minutes of the completion of the podcast. Fortunately, we didn't say John Oliver-to-"The Daily Show" was either likely or a good idea. Quite the opposite. 

Oh and next week is the end of "Parks and Recreation" and we're going to either do two podcasts or we're going to do one epic podcast with a big "Parks and Recreation" segment, but we want/need your help in asking us some awesome questions for that "Parks and Recreation" segment, so... FirewallIceberg@HitFix.com.

But that's next week.

Here's today's breakdown:
"Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" (00:02:08 - 00:25:45)
"The Odd Couple" (00:25:50 - 00:36:05)
"Jack and Triumph" (00:36:10 - 00:43:55)
"CitizenFour" and the Oscars (00:44:00 - 01:01:50)
Listener Mail: John Oliver/"The Daily Show" (01:01:50 - 01:12:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>&quot;Man Seeking Woman&quot;</p>

"Man Seeking Woman"

Credit: FXX

HitFix First Look: 'Man Seeking Woman' star Jay Baruchel gets Scared Straight

Suburbia looks pretty dysfunctional in this clip from Wednesday's episode

Wednesday February 18) night's episode of "Man Seeking Woman," titled "Gavel," was actually one of the initial three episodes sent to critics this winter.

As always with "Man Seeking Woman" episodes, it's hard to say what the episode is about without giving away the week's metaphorical approaches to Josh Greenberg's (Jay Baruchel) singledom and dating travails. 

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<p>&quot;Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life&quot;</p>

"Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life"

Credit: CBS

TV Ratings: 'Bachelor' leads, 'Gotham' rises, Stevie Wonder special soft

'Sleepy Hollow' is also up for FOX on Monday

Fast National ratings for Monday, February 16, 2015.

Coming off of an additional three hours of programming on Sunday, ABC's "The Bachelor" was down week-to-week, but still helped the network win Monday night in all measures.

CBS took second place overall thanks to "Mike & Molly," Monday's most-watched show, despite a tepid performance for the "Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life" special. FOX, meanwhile, was second in the key demo with "Gotham" and "Sleepy Hollow" rising week-to-week.

Meanwhile, NBC got middling interest in the two-hour finale for "The Celebrity Apprentice" and no real interest in the season [series] finale for "State of Affairs."

On to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special&quot;</p>

"Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special"

Credit: NBC

TV Ratings: NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' special draws 20-times 'Mulaney' finale

Even the 'SNL' red carpet special did big ratings

Fast National ratings for Sunday, February 15, 2015.

Viewers didn't seem to care that it wasn't Saturday night and it wasn't actually the 40th anniversary of "Saturday Night Live." NBC's "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" did the sort of huge numbers normally reserved for an award show or a football game and topped the combined totals for its network competition in all measures.

The "SNL" special ran from 8 to 11:30, so these are only the three-hour numbers for primetime, but the three-hour figures include a 7.8 rating among adults 18-49, a whopping 9.2 rating among adults 25-54 and a 6.1 rating among adults 18-34.

NBC is calling this the network's most-watched primetime entertainment telecast, excluding post-Super Bowl programs (and also sports), in the 18-49 demo since the "Will & Grace" finale in 2006.

There was basically no way for the network competition to keep up with that, though ABC rode three hours of "Bachelor" specials to second in the key demo, while FOX rode the "Mulaney" finale to fourth. 

And while it's unclear if CBS will give "CSI" one more season, the current installment went out with a whimper, though it still helped CBS to second place overall.

On to the numbers...

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