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CBS Wins Week”s War

With the start of the Persian Gulf war on Wednesday night, Week 18 (which ended Jan. 20) certainly qualifies as an a typical tv week.

The all-primetime war news telecasts on both Wednesday (Jan. 16) and Thursday (Jan. 17) strongly underscored ABC’s current dominance of the news arena in terms of numbers (a dominance again illustrated by that web’s 2.8 rating-point lead in the weekly evening newscast competition, the largest gap in that genre this season). On Wednesday night, CNN scored a war-coverage coup with its three-man team’s live news reports from Baghdad.

Despite this abrupt disruption of regular primetime programming, the week’s victory went to CBS (13.5/21), giving the net its first weekly win since the World Series. The web’s week culminated with a very strong Sunday (21.7/32), which was in turn spearheaded by a 36.9/56 return for the runover of the Giants-49ers football playoff. This great leadin led to a season-high for “60 Minutes” (27.2/40), and a very lop-sided win of the night.

The week’s surprise was NBC’s third-place finish, the first time that has happened all season. The preemption of the net’s powerhouse Thursday slate by war coverage, followed by the impromptu skedding of that night’s sitcoms on Friday, where they proceeded to run third for the night (with only “Cheers” logging double-digit numbers, 11.4/18) surely contributed.

War-related specials did relatively well. The best score came from Monday (Jan. 14), the day before the United Nations deadline, when ABC’s “A Line In The Sand: War Or Peace?” ranked sixth for the week with an 18.1/27.

Such shows continued to score during Week 19, when CBS swept Monday (Jan. 21), with its 10 p.m. “Showdown In The Gulf spec posting a 13.2/21, better than “The Trials Of Rosie O’Neill” average. On Tuesday, “Rescue 911” pulled an upset, winning the lead-in hour with a 16.0/23 against regular programming.

And the reprise of “Lonesome Dove” on CBS made its presence felt. On Sunday (20), it took its time period with a 15.1/24. It ran second on Tuesday (13.7/21), first on Wednesday, (15.5/25) and first on Thursday (15.4/24) – leading to a 14.9/24 average for its eight primetime hours.

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