CBS leads in sweeps

CBS enjoyed a festive weekend with Nancy Kerrigan and the Joanne Woodward-James Garner combo, taking firm control of the February sweeps right from the start. The Eye web dominated the Jan. 31-Feb. 6 primetime Nielsen week.

During the current week, meanwhile, ABC struck an off-key Nielsen note with the American MusicAwards, which slumped to their lowest rating since 1981 opposite the movies “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Lethal Weapon 2,” as well as two hours of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Cops.”

The Woodward-Garner pairing “Breathing Lessons” inhaled the second-highest single-episode vidpic rating since Feb. 3, 1991’s “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (23.1 rating/35 share), combining with Saturday’s “Nancy Kerrigan & Friends” skating special to lead CBS to a big weekend sweep and a come-from-behind weekly victory.

The only higher-rated telepic since “Sarah” was also on CBS, “To Dance With the White Dog,” which ran off with a 21.9/33 on Dec. 5. “White Dog,””Breathing” and “Sarah” were all “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentations, meaning Hallmark has sponsored the three highest-rated single-episode telepix of the past five seasons.

The last regular-season single-episode vidpic to top that Hallmark trio was NBC’s “The Case of the Hillside Stranglers” (23.1/36, April 2, 1989).

Hallmark films traditionally attract older audiences that are easier to reach but less valuable to advertisers. “Breathing,” for example, earned a mere 14 share among women 18-34 but a 56 among women 50 and older.

Thus CBS ran third for the week among adults 18-49. Those averages were ABC, 7.6/20; NBC, 7.3/19; CBS, 6.7/17; and Fox, 5.2/13.

On Saturday, the Kerrigan spec glided to the network’s best marks in that timeslot since a special “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” ran there Nov. 20. The strong skating numbers, apparently a prelude to blockbuster figures when the skaters take the ice during the Winter Olympics, delivered CBS’ 16th win in 20 Saturdays this season.

The Eye’s strong weekend has put it solidly in the lead after five nights of February Nielsen sweeps, a competish CBS is expected to win easily thanks to the upcoming Olympics. Through Monday of this week, the five-night sweeps averages were: CBS, 14.1/22; ABC, 12.7/20; NBC, 12.2/19; Fox, 8.0/12. Among adults 18-49 the order of the Big Three was reversed: NBC, a 7.8 rating; ABC, 7.6; CBS, 6.3; Fox, 5.8.

Monday

ABC’s “American Music Awards” (16.0/24) got pelted by a rerun of “Fried Green Tomatoes” (16.7/25) this week, resulting in the second-lowest-rated “AMA” in 20 years. The only lower-scoring show was 13 years ago (14.4/22), when ABC made an ill-advised attempt to run it Friday against the surging “Dukes of Hazzard” (26. 5/41) and “Dallas” (34.8/55).

“AMA” fell off by a dizzying 26% compared with last year’s Michael Jackson-boosted 21.6/33. In past years, “AMA” has generally run against weaker competition on non-sweeps Mondays.

This gives CBS’ Grammys telecast, which generally runs during the rugged sweeps, a better chance to top “AMA,” something the Grammys have managed just once in the last nine years.

“AMA” still dominated the night among adults 18-49, passing “Tomatoes” by 6 shares in that vital demographic. The music kudocast managed a 40 share among teens (down from last year’s 49), a 33 among women 18-34 (down from a 48) and a 21 among men 18-34 (down from a 35).

“Fried Green Tomatoes” was off by 30% compared to the juicy 23.8/38 of its first web telecast last May 2 (still the top network theatrical-pic result since “Star Wars’ ” 25.1/35 on Feb. 26, 1984), but NBC is no doubt happy to accept the household victory over “AMA.”

CBS’ “AMA” counterprogramming, a rerun of “Lethal Weapon 2” (11.3/17), settled for the Eye web’s lowest Monday numbers of the season. Fox’s four “Cops” episodes (8.7/13) pulled over its best Monday results in two months.

Sunday

CBS easily swept the night in households with an older-appeal lineup, while ABC and its Clint Eastwood-Charlie Sheen theatrical “The Rookie” prevailed among adults 18-49. By that measure, CBS’ powerful “Breathing Lessons” vidpic was merely third from 9-11 p.m.

Fox’s hot start from “The George Carlin Show” didn’t extend into the sweeps. “Carlin” held just 75% of its “Married … With Children” lead-in Sunday, the worst Fox has done in that slot in two months.

NBC suffered a season low for “I Witness Video.”

Saturday

CBS dominated with “Dr. Quinn,””Nancy Kerrigan” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

ABC, meanwhile, took second for the night by landing its third-best 8-10 p.m. Saturday score since October with “Skates of Gold.” From 9-10 p.m., CBS’ Kerrigan fest and ABC’s competing IBM-sponsored skating exhibition spec earned a combined 23.9/40.

Against that competition, NBC’s “Nurses” got its unhealthiest firstrun rating ever in the 9:30 p.m. Saturday slot.

“America’s Most Wanted” is up 43% over Fox’s slot average after two tries in the Saturday 9 p.m. hour.

Friday

The “Soap Opera Digest Awards” presented NBC with its best Friday score among adults 18-49 for any non-sports programming since the awards’ February ’93 airing, though the kudocast did slip by 8% this year in households.

NBC had to settle for third in nightlong results, as ABC continues to dominate with the night’s younger viewers and CBS the older audience.

At Fox, both “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” and “X-Files” enjoyed their highest adults 18-49 ratings ever, helping the weblet to its best Friday result in that key demo since Jan. 1, 1993.

Thursday

A record “Frasier” led NBC to its 11th straight Thursday victory. Boosted by Bebe Neuwirth’s guest appearance as Frasier’s ex-wife Lilith, the “Cheers” spinoff posted the highest rating for a rookie sitcom since “Roseanne” did a 25. 4/38 on April 11, 1989. “Frasier” also improved on its “Seinfeld” lead-in for the first time and was the week’s top-rated program in adults 18-49.

“L.A. Law” rejoined the NBC sked by topping three of four episodes of “Homicide,””Law’s” interim replacement. It was “Law’s” second-best rating of the season (Daily Variety, Feb. 7).

CBS’ “I Spy Returns” snooped out the Eye’s best Thursday 8-10 p.m. rating since Nov. 18 (“Return to Lonesome Dove”).

Wednesday

ABC won the night by a whisker in households but by an easy 8 shares among adults 18-49, where “Home Improvement” built a towering 17.8/41. In households, “Improvement” has been the highest-rated primetime show for 10 of the season’s 20 weeks.

“The Critic” is panning out for ABC, last week building by 9% on its “Thea” lead-in. That’s ABC’s best 8:30-9 p.m. lead-out perf after a firstrun “Thea” thus far.

“Law & Order’s” appeal continues to grow — last week the series capitalized on all-news competition to earn its highest rating since Jan. 7, 1992, back when it was a Tuesday regular.

Tuesday

ABC again barely won a night in households while winning comfortably among adults 18-49. “NYPD Blue” peeked above the 95% clearance level for the first time but still equaled (in rerun) its second-worst numbers yet.

Fox’s Tuesday troubles are back in spades. “Front Page” got ripped for the weblet’s worst rating in that slot since May 11, 1993. “Monty” has also lost most of its Nielsen bluster, falling last week to Fox’s worst firstrun rating in that half-hour since last Nov. 9.

Monday

CBS took another Monday, easily solving NBC’s “Cosby Mysteries” (Daily Variety, Feb. 2). NBC did get its best improvement ever by a firstrun “Blossom” over an original “Fresh Prince.”

Each rating point represents an estimated 942,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes.The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.

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