A flurry of mid-season schedule shifts at ABC has failed to slow CBS’ ratings momentum, and the Eye net has captured its sixth consecutive prime time Nielsens week.The big boost that put CBS on top for the Jan. 11-17 week came with the prime time overrun from Sunday afternoon’s Dallas-San Francisco NFC Championship football game. The 20-minute post-game show scored the top rating for any prime time program since the Sept. 21 Dan Quayle episode of “Murphy Brown.” The game rating is expected to be announced tomorrow, though the one minute of the contest that spilled into prime time earned a 37.8 rating, 60 share. If counted as a separate program, that would top all prime time ratings since last year’s Super Bowl. The big gridcast numbers helped CBS counter-balance ABC’s triumphant return of “Matlock” to series status last Thursday. Retired by NBC last spring, “Matlock” joined the ABC lineup last week with the web’s best rating in that slot since the Winter Olympics, Feb. 25, 1988, keying ABC’s first regular-season Thursday win with all regular programming since “Mork & Mindy,””Bosom Buddies,””Barney Miller,””Taxi” and “20/20″ took the night on Feb. 12, 1981. “Matlock,” however, was the only one of ABC’s three major schedule shifts last week that generated a significant ratings boost. “Jack’s Place” was unspectacular at 9 p.m. Thursday and “Going to Extremes” was a washout at 10 p.m. Wednesday. The week’s results reflect the current interval of stability in the ratings wars, which have been otherwise marked by dramatic power shifts and extremely close races the past two years. CBS has now led the pack for six weeks, while ABC remains a competitive second and the leader in the key adults 18-49 race; NBC has run deep in last for 11 weeks in a row. The fluttering Peacock has also fared no better than a second-place tie in the season’s 18 weeks. Fox Broadcasting Co., which has just expanded to Tuesdays, can’t challenge the nets in household numbers but continues to lead among viewers 12-34, men 18- 34 and teens while ranking second among adults 18-34. Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: ABC, a 7.8 rating, 19 share; CBS, 7.6 /19; NBC, 6.5/16; Fox, 5.6/13. ABC has led that category 13 of 17 weeks this season. CBS has started the week with another Monday win, though NBC’s “Fresh Prince” (15.6/23) and “Blossom” (14.8/21) took the 8-9 p.m. hour. ABC wrapped its two-night “Telling Secrets” with an average 14.1/22, placing it fifth out of six multiparters aired this season. Compared to the 15 firstrun miniseries aired during the 1991-92 broadcast year, “Secrets” would have finished eighth. CBS’ Jan. 11-17 weeklong win was capped by a decisive Sunday victory, courtesy of the big Dallas-S.F. football lead-in. That led to the second-best ” 60 Minutes” rating since Jan. 20, 1991. But the night ended on a down note for CBS. “The Switch” vidpic hit CBS’ lowest Sunday-film rating since Sept. 13, allowing ABC’s part one of “Telling Secrets” to win the three-way Sunday-pic race despite being ABC’s lowest-rated Sunday film in three weeks. Saturday fell to CBS for a fifth-straight week, but the Eye web also slipped within a mere share of third place. While “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” continues to dominate 8-9 p.m. and “Raven” remains a respectable third at 9 p.m., “The Hat Squad” got blown off by the 10 p.m. competition last week, equalling CBS’ worst share there since Sept. 12. ABC nearly snuck into a nightlong Saturday victory, with “The Commish” equaling its highest share ever. NBC has fallen so far and so fast in the 8-9 p.m. Saturday hour that it ran fourth there last week even with special “Empty Nest” and “Nurses” repeats. Friday’s older audience was split by CBS’ lineup and NBC’s “Perry Mason” rerun, allowing younger-skewing ABC to dominate, earning its best Friday rating with all regular programming since last April 3. That net’s “20/20″ was the big gun, as usual, earning its highest rating since last April 29. ABC’s “Camp Wilder” still has not won its slot after 16 tries, but “Wilder” has managed to improve on its “Dinosaurs” lead-in rating two of its last three airings. In households, Thursday fell to ABC’s new lineup, but the dramatically older-skewing team landed deep in fourth place among adults 18-49. NBC still rules Thursday by that measure, once the Peacock recovers from its 8-9 p.m. plucking. Though it’s unimpressive in younger demographics, ABC’s “Matlock” made a rousing return to series status in terms of household results, winning ABC’s best regular-series rating in that hour since the premiere of the short-lived “Wildside” earned a 16.1/24 on March 21, 1985. No such distinction was in store in the 9-10 p.m. hour, when “Jack’s Place” lost 38% of the “Matlock” lead-in rating and could claim no accomplishment more impressive than serving up ABC’s second-best rating that hour in the last five weeks (Daily Variety, Jan. 18). Wednesday’s competition got hammered by ABC’s “Home Improvement.” The Tim Allen series is now really turning on the power, having established series-record ratings two weeks in a row. That was enough for ABC to overcome the sinking feeling brought on by the addition of “Going to Extremes” to the 10-11 p.m. hour. That heading-for-hiatus series foundered to the web’s lowest numbers in the hour since Sept. 1, down 3 shares from the “Civil Wars” slot average. CBS ran a close second for the night in households, though “Space Rangers’ ” second orbit eroded by 10%, dragging the new sci-fi actioner quickly into fourth in the slot. “Rangers” still provides a solid demographic booster for CBS in the hour. ABC snuck back into the Tuesday lead by banishing “Going to Extremes.” A special re-intro of “Jack’s Place” in that hour was far from spectacular but still topped every “Extremes” rating in the slot since Oct. 13. CBS barely missed another Tuesday win. “Rescue 911″ chipped in its best rating in nearly two years, since Feb. 26, 1991, beating “Full House” head-to-head for just the second time since “House” moved into the slot in the summer of ’91 (though both “911” wins have been with firstrun episodes against “House” reruns). Monday fell easily to CBS’ regular lineup (Daily Variety, Jan. 13). “Love & War” is flourishing without football competition, last week matching its best rating ever. “Northern Exposure” also equaled its best of the season. In evening news last week, CBS and NBC earned their top rating since Feb. 25- 29, 1991, during the Gulf War, but ABC still won for the 20th week in a row and 169th week out of the last 172.
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