‘Wives’ grooms a CBS win

CBS’ telefilm about a bigamist has left the competing networks in a fog, guiding the Eye Web to a dominating victory in March 22-28 prime time Nielsens.

Sunday’s Beau Bridges-Pam Dawber vidpic “The Man With Three Wives” is the hottest title yet in a sizzling streak of CBS Sunday telefilms. For the fourth time in the last eight weeks, a CBS Sunday pic has topped every rating for every single-episode telefilm aired in the two years between Feb. 3, 1991’s “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (which attracted a 23.1 rating, 35 share) and the start of this CBS hot streak.

First CBS telecast the “Sarah” sequel “Skylark” (19.9/29) Feb. 7 and set the top single-episode vidpic rating for the previous two years. Two weeks later, “Family of Strangers” (19.8/29) did it again, topping everything except “Skylark.” The three weeks after that, “Men Don’t Tell” (19.7/31) again beat out every applicable title for the two-year period between “Sarah” and “Skylark.”

And now “Man With Three Wives” has topped even “Skylark” to become the top-rated non-Glenn Close single-episode vidpic since CBS’ “The Incident” (20.8/ 33) ran more than three years ago, on March 4, 1990.

CBS’ eight-week streak of hot Sunday films also has included part one of “Queen” (24.7/38), which topped the rating for every net vidpic, theatrical film and multiparter chapter presented since “Small Sacrifices, Part 2” (25.2/39) on Nov. 14, 1989.

The seven single-part Sunday vidpix that CBS has televised in this eight-week hot streak have all finished with a 17.0 rating or better. That’s more than twice as many to achieve that level as ABC and NBC have aired combined on any night of the week through the 27 weeks of the entire season. The ABC-NBC total since last September is three, including their respective “Amy Fisher” vidpix. The rap against these CBS films is that most of them have built up their audiences largely with older viewers less desirable to advertisers. For example, “Three Wives” barely beat out ABC’s “Star Trek IV” among adults 18-49, and they tied with a 24 share each.

Thus, the week’s averages for adults 18-49 were much closer than the household results. CBS still won, with a 7.5/20, but ABC followed closely with a 7.1/19. NBC (6.2/16) and Fox Broadcasting Co. (5.5/14) trailed.

Fox continues to perform well primarily in young-adult demos, last week topping the networks’ full-week adults 18-34, men 18-34 and teen averages.

CBS coverage of the NCAA college-basketball championship tournament didn’t hurt the net last week. The web says its Friday games finished up 2% over year-ago results and Thursday’s coverage was up 6%. Through the Friday games, the tournament is running 7% ahead of year-ago ratings, according to the network.

So it was icing on the cake of the March 22-28 win when CBS dominated the weekend against folding competition.

On Sunday, CBS’ “Man With Three Wives” topped the combined scores of the two competing Sunday pix in households, as NBC suffered through its worst Sunday-pic rating since Sept. 13 with “Lethal Exposure” and worst 7-8 p.m. Sunday rating since Sept. 5 with a “Brokaw Report” on immigration.

Meanwhile, results from ABC’s recent Sunday shake-up appear to be more or less a wash. The “America’s Funniest” duo is a big improvement in the 7-8 p.m. hour, more or less equaling what they averaged in the 8-9 p.m. hour; however, their replacement at 8, the news magazine “Day One,” has faded quickly, falling to fourth in the slot last week.

After having gone since Nov. 22 without finishing as high as second in its Sunday slot, Fox’s “In Living Color” has now taken the runner-up slot there twice in a row and last week won the half-hour among adults 18-49. Also, “Shaky Ground” escaped fourth in its slot for the first time ever.

That’s helped make up for the weak return of “Parker Lewis” to the lineup. Last week “Parker” lost 22% of its previous-week rating to fall to Fox’s second-worst score in that half-hour since Nov. 29.

Saturday remains in the expert care of CBS’ “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” which last week hit its highest numbers since its Saturday premiere.

Meanwhile, ABC’s recent Saturday surge is now a distant memory. Last week, its “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” plunged to ABC’s second-worst rating in that troubled hour since last summer, just two weeks after “Indy” burst onto the Saturday schedule with ABC’s best Saturday 8-10 p.m. rating in 10 months. ABC also tried a Saturday “Matlock” last week and got old-skewing, unexciting numbers that were still strong enough to win the 10 p.m. hour.

Fox is cruising on Saturdays, last week running easily second in households and first in such broad demo categories as adults 18-49 and even 25-54.

Friday continues to belong to ABC, though the NBC rerun of Danielle Steel’s “Changes” did take the 9:30-10 half-hour last week.

Thursday remains an NBC night, especially among adults 18-49. “Seinfeld” has helped turn the night back around for the Peacock, last week improving on its “Cheers” lead-in by an unheard-of 3 shares with the highest-rated “Seinfeld” rerun ever. “Crime & Punishment” also achieved respectability against hoops competition.

Wednesday fell rather easily to ABC, particularly in adults 18-49, where it won the night by 6 shares over runner-up Fox. Clearing a path for ABC was “Sirens,” which hit a high enough pitch to beat “48 Hours’ ” President Clinton interview among viewers 18-49.

NBC, a Wednesday winner 19 times last season, finished fourth on the night last week and has won just one of the last 20 Wednesdays. Fatal flaw in the lineup is “Homicide.”

CBS’ “How’d They Do That,” in the 8-9 p.m. hour, faded an alarming 18% in its third week.

Fox enjoyed its best “Beverly Hills, 90210” rating since Nov. 4 and led the pack in households from 8:30-9. It was “90210’s” first half-hour in the lead since Aug. 20 and first ever during the regular season. “Melrose Place” followed up with a strong second in its hour among adults 18-49.

Tuesday landed again in the CBS column, thanks to “Rescue 911” and the Robert Conrad vidpic “Sworn to Vengeance,” a 9-11 p.m. winner despite just 95% clearance by affils.

Still, ABC won the night by a comfortable margin in adults 18-49; got the best “Jackie Thomas Show” retention of its “Roseanne” lead-in rating (75%) in seven tries; and enjoyed its best 10-11 p.m. regular series results since Oct. 13 with “Homefront.”

Fox debuted “Tribeca” at 9 p.m. and captured its best rating there since the slot predecessor “Key West” debuted.

Monday’s CBS leadership was busted by NBC’s “Kindergarten Cop” rerun, which locked up NBC’s best Monday adults 18-49 rating, excluding Olympic nights, since April 29, 1991. “Cop” was the top-rated Monday theatrical film since “Shoot to Kill” Jan. 7, 1991.

ABC’s “Family Pictures” finished its two-night run with the lowest numbers ( 10.8/17) for a first-run regular-season multiparter since CBS’ “Dadah Is Death” (10.7/18) Oct. 30-31, 1988.

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