A return to regular programming, coupled with a four-day week caused by massive preemptions Jan. 2, drove most syndicated shows toward their best rating levels of the season in the first week of ’95.

Every strip in the top 10 of the Nielsen national barter rankings showed at least a 9% gain over the previous week, with five setting or matching records for the season.

‘Jones’ up 8%

The most notable gain of any series was posted by Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones,” which rose 8% to a record 5.6 – dethroning Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” for second-place behind King World’s “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“Ricki” notched a 7% loss to 5.5, with some of its viewers returning to school.” Oprah,” meanwhile, cracked a 9.9, up 13%.

Others hitting ratings records were Paramount’s “Maury Povich Show” (up 11% to 5.2), Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” (ahead 2% to 4.8) and Par’s “Montel Williams Show” (gaining 10% to 4.5). On the downside, KW’s “Rolonda” declined 9% to 2.1 for the worst percentage loss of any returning talkshow.

In the top 10, King World’s top-rated “Wheel of Fortune” spun a 9% gain to 15.2, while companion “Jeopardy!” hit a record 13.3 with a 15% surge.

Par’s “Entertainment Tonight” popped up 12% to 8.6, staying far ahead of the magazine pack.

Par’s “Hard Copy” moved ahead sharply to tie KW’s “Inside Edition” for tabloid honors. “Copy” rallied 17% to 7.0, equaling its season’s best, while “Inside” rose 9% to its season high.

Twentieth’s “A Current Affair,” which has been quiet lately, made some noise jumping 12% to 5.8.

Warner Bros.’ “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine,” which has beaten KW’s “American Journal” frequently in some key demos, leaped 16% to record 4.4 – a notch behind “Journal” at 4.5.

Elsewhere, Time coverboy Rush Limbaugh’s ratings sagged 9% to 3.0, tying the Multimedia show’s worst perf of the season.

In the off-net race, Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” turned in the biggest improvement of any strip during the week, soaring 23% to 5.9; WB’s “Fresh Price of Bel-Air” rose 6% to 5.7; while MCA TV’s “Coach” was flat at 4.5.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more