It was the battle of the titans Sunday night. And I'm not referring to Bobby Baccala locking tusks with Tony Soprano at the lake house. But as in that knock-down, drag-out fight, when

Desperate Housewives

faced off with

The Sopranos

, they each ended up taking chunks out of the other's hide.

The ladies of Wisteria Lane, those goddesses of Grand Guignol, are suddenly looking mortal. The show hit a season low with 15.7 million viewers. That means Housewives has lost nearly 30 percent of its audience since the season began.

The Sopranos also took a thrashing, with 7.7 million viewers, dropping 19 percent since its last return from hiatus, in March '06.

Part of the double dip is due to the fact that last Sunday at 9 p.m. was one of the most competitive time slots of the season, with a fresh episode of the extraordinary Planet Earth on Discovery and a lush, live-action version of the children's classic The Wind in the Willows on Masterpiece Theatre. To quote Turgenev: How many TiVos does a man need?

That's the way it always is on TV: It never rains but it floods.

Why am I the only one dancing? It may be time for American Idol to reserve a bed in one of Malibu's busy rehabs. Our little Paula seems headed for a fall.

Abdul has been so good since her loopy preseason promo interview became a YouTube staple. She's been showing up bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and cogent for every episode of Idol.

But this week there were telltale signs that the wheels are coming off again. Tuesday she was up and dancing to every one of those Latin-themed songs. How zonked do you have to be before a bad karaoke version of "Conga" makes you want to get up and dance? Wednesday was worse. I don't think she uttered a word all night. Every time Ryan asked her a question, she broke into helpless fits of giggles.

Our societal attitudes have really changed. Twenty years ago, being impaired was considered funny. (Remember Foster Brooks?) Now it's a scandal.

The soul of comedy. There was a great bit on 30 Rock last week. Jack's job was being threatened by another executive (guest star Will Arnett). His title (love that corporate synergy) was "vice president/West Coast of news, Web content and theme park talent relations."

His claim to fame? The 10-second sitcom. We were treated to a Webisode of Makin' It Home: Man throws open the door, says "I'm home." Cut to his sour wife, who makes a disparaging comment. Canned laughter erupts, and the credits fly by at hyper-speed.

Of course that could never happen on TV. It would be a six-second show with four seconds of commercials.

Never heard of her. This might have gotten more attention if a saddle-sore old cowboy named Imus hadn't hog-tied the headlines this week. It was revealed that one of Katie Couric's videotaped commentaries for the CBS News Web site had been blatantly plagiarized from a Wall Street Journal article.

A scapegoat, um, producer was immediately cashiered and a CBS News spokesman quickly formulated a defense for Couric: Of course Katie doesn't write those mini-editorials. Why would anyone think she did?

Gee, I don't know. Maybe because they're titled "Katie Couric's Notebook" and she reads them in the first person? (This entry breezily began, "Hi, everyone, I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books. . . .") Why in the world would you assume those are Katie's thoughts?

Couric obviously has taken lessons from Charles Barkley, who once claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography.

Contact TV editor David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/

columnists/david_hiltbrand.