Tremors, TDs propel CBS

The Northridge earthquake and Texas-size football numbers rattled the competition and moved CBS into the primetime Nielsen winner’s circle for just the second time in seven weeks.

Sunday’s 10-minute Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers football overrun scored a higher rating than any primetime program since the final “Cheers” episode last May 20 and keyed CBS’ best Sunday rating in 11 months.

Earthquake coverage also bolstered CBS’ midweek schedule, contributing to a record “Eye to Eye” rating, the best “Rescue 911” since last March 23 and the highest “48 Hours” since June 2.

NBC’s “Now With Tom Brokaw & Katie Couric” also earned a record rating with quake coverage, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Front Page” hit its second-best rating so far and ABC’s “Day One” rose to its second-best score since last March 14.

In evening news, overall viewing was up 12% over the same week a year ago. ABC’s first-place newscast (13.7/22) achieved its strongest rating since Jan. 14 -18, 1991. Tied for second, CBS (12.5/20) enjoyed its highest rating since Jan. 2-6, 1989, while NBC (12.5/20) rose to its best rating since Feb. 23-27, 1987.

CBS’ Jan. 17-23 primetime victory wasn’t all temblors and touchdowns. The Eye web has also wrested control of Mondays away from ABC now that “Monday Night Football” has retired for the season, and CBS’ “Burke’s Law” is shaping up as a Friday hit, at least among older audiences. Last week a total of nine CBS regulars hit season-high ratings.

Still, despite the highest weeklong rating and widest margin of victory for any network since the World Series, CBS couldn’t catch ABC last week among adults 18-49, the most coveted demographic among advertisers.

For the week, ABC averaged a 7.7 rating/19 share to edge CBS (7.4/18). NBC (6 .4/16) and Fox (5.3/13) followed.

CBS has won only a single week this season by that measure, while ABC has won 14 of 18 weeks. CBS did win last week in the important adults 25-54 demographic.

Monday

CBS’ post-football domination of this night continued during the current week , with the Eye winning all half-hours after 8:30 and equaling its best Monday rating since April 5. “Northern Exposure” (16.2/25) warmed to its highest rating since last March 1.

Fox grabbed its best Monday vidpic rating since Aug. 17 from the two-hour pilot “Mantis” (8.5/13).

Sunday

CBS got a reminder of what NFL football has meant to the web when the Dallas-San Francisco NFC championship game overrun propelled the Eye to its best Sunday score since part one of “Queen” last Feb. 14.

The game itself ran for 10 minutes in primetime, earning a 33.7/53, the highest primetime score since the “Cheers” finale.

Both Sunday’s 26-minute post-game show (26.6/42) and the “60 Minutes” that followed have been topped in rating by only one other primetime telecast since the final “Cheers”– NBC’s 23-minute Kansas City-Houston football overrun a week earlier (30.5/47).

As always, CBS’ Sunday lineup benefited spectacularly from a big football lead-in. “60 Minutes” reported its best rating since Jan. 3, 1993; “Murder, She Wrote” snooped out its top score since Jan. 7, 1990; and “Incident in a Small Town” nailed down the second-best vidpic share on any net this season.

Fox’s “George Carlin Show” continues to look strong, improving on its excellent premiere numbers a week earlier to score Fox’s highest rating in the slot since the ’92 Emmys. “Carlin” also won the half-hour among adults 18-49. “Carlin’s” retention of the “Married … With Children” lead-in slipped from 94% to 89%.

Earlier in the evening, Fox got series-record numbers from “Living Single” and “Married … With Children’s” highest rating since Oct. 4, 1992.

NBC left “seaQuest DSV” in the docks and tried “Treasure Island: The Adventure Begins,” touting the new Las Vegas hotel, with disastrous results — the net’s lowest share in the Sunday 8 p.m. hour since Oct. 27, 1991 (“Man of the People,””Pacific Station”). That opened the door for “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” to rise to its best rating yet.

NBC’s “In the Line of Duty” vidpic won the race among Sunday movies in the adults 18-49 demographic.

Saturday

“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” delivered its second-best Saturday 8-9 p.m. rating ever, giving CBS another healthy Saturday victory.

NBC bowed out of the race altogether by trying “Saved by the Bell” in place of “The Mommies” and falling to the net’s lowest share in that slot in at least 12 years. That dragged “Getting By” down to the web’s worst share in the 8:30-9 p.m. half-hour since Jan. 16, 1982.

NBC’s pratfalls helped “Cops” capture Fox’s best Saturday 8-9p.m. score since last April 10.

Friday

Among adults 18-49, ABC still dominates Fridays, winning last week by 9 shares. But in households, CBS is closing in.

Last week the Eye found its highest Friday rating with regular programming since the night of the final “Dallas” episode back on May 3, 1991.

“Diagnosis Murder” tracked down its best numbers ever and “Burke’s Law” captured the 9-10 p.m. hour, something regular CBS programming hadn’t done since “Designing Women” and “Good Advice” triumphed last April 2.

The extra exposure of a couple Monday showings helped Fox’s “X-Files” hunt down its highest rating since premiere week.

Thursday

ABC got a record rating from “PrimeTime Live” (thanks largely to an interview with skater Tonya Harding’s bodyguard) and a slot-record rating from “Missing Persons,” but they weren’t enough to equal Thursday champ NBC’s household marks that night. The Peacock also glided to an effortless 12-share margin of victory in adults 18-49 figures.

Against the record “PrimeTime Live,” NBC’s “Homicide” didn’t show much life and is now down 34% from its impressive return-to-the-sked rating two weeks earlier.

At 8 p.m., CBS’ “How’d They Do That?” puzzled out a 14% improvement over its unimpressive return rating the previous week.

Wednesday

ABC prevailed for the night, even with “Birdland” now down 24% from its premiere rating of two weeks earlier.

ABC’s “Thea” and “George” are picking upmomentum in the 8-9 p.m. hour, as last week both slugged out timeslot-best ratings.

NBC ran a close second with its highest regular-sked Wednesday score since Jan. 15, 1992. “Law and Order” helped out with its best Wednesday rating ever.

CBS got its best regular-schedule Wednesday rating since last March 17, as “The Nanny” scored a slot high and “Hearts Afire” a season high.

Tuesday

CBS snuck ahead of ABC in households for the Eye’s first Tuesday win in eight weeks, but ABC won the night by 6 shares among adults 18-49.

CBS’ households win was pulled out by the quake-boosted “Rescue 911” and the highest-rated CBS Tuesday pic (part two of “In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride & Madness”) since last Feb. 16 (“Queen”).

“Families’ ” two-night average is a 16.7/25, making it the second-highest-rated multi-parter out of six aired so far this season, beating “Return to Lonesome Dove” (16.4/25).

ABC benefited from the best “Full House” rating since last March 23 and the best-ever retention of a “Roseanne” lead-in by a “Coach” episode.

Fox’s “Monty” dropped by 21% from its slot-record premiere rating the previous week, but it was still Fox’s second-best rating ever in that half-hour.

Monday

The quake-scrambled Monday race went easily to CBS, which shook up the competition with the first “Love and War” and “Northern Exposure” slot wins since July 12.

Fox got a roughly average Monday rating out of two special “X-Files” episodes.

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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