‘L.A. Law’ awaits verdict

The Nielsen jury is still out on the much-publicized return of “L.A. Law,” as the veteran NBC drama scored its best numbers since early January but fell short of early-season levels before viewers started to sour on the show.

On Friday, meanwhile, CBS counseled solid numbers for the premiere of the Shelley Long vehicle “Good Advice,” which built on its “Designing Women” lead-in to win the time period in Nielsen overnight markets with an 18 share.

New drama “Bodies of Evidence” also looked OK at 10 p.m., posting a 16 share, slightly better than recent overnight results for “Picket Fences.”

“Fences” vacated the Friday slot to go head to head with sister Twentieth TV hour “L.A. Law,” which laid down a 12.8 rating, 22 share, easily topping “Fences” (9.1/16) but well back of “PrimeTime Live” (15.6/27), now the clear household winner in the slot.

Matters were somewhat better for the legal drama among adults 18-49, the key sales demographic, where it pulled a 26 share to a 23 for ABC’s newsmagazine and a 13 for “Fences.””L.A. Law” did improve on its demos and upped its season-to-date household average by 11%.

Former “L.A. Law” producer William Finkelstein returned as exec producer as part of the show’s second midseason change behind the scenes in two seasons. Original episodes under the stewardship of Finkelstein will continue through the May sweeps.

In another move with scheduling implications, a special airing of ABC’s “The Commish” held up fairly well between “Matlock” and “PrimeTime” on Thursday, falling just 17% off its lead-in despite low clearances. ABC reportedly is pondering a Saturday-to-Thursday shift of the show next season.

Overnights weren’t available on Saturday’s Final Four basketball coverage due to Nielsen processing difficulties.

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