WASHINGTON – With NATPE less than a month away, attention is starting to focus on this year’s freshman class of syndicated shows.

For the week ending Dec. 15, Paramount’s “Real TV,” the surprise success of this year, had its highest rating ever with a 3.1, according to Nielsen. That’s a 7% increase from the previous week and good enough for first place among the frosh strips.

New World and NBC’s “Access Hollywood” posted a 3.0 rating for the week, up 7% over the previous week but still underperforming its metered-market lead-in by 27%.

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Dating Game/Newlywed Game Hour” hit its season high with a 2.0, up 5%. That puts it up 11% from its season-to-date average, although last week it was still off 13% from its lead-in in metered markets.

“Judge Judy” from Worldvision moved 6% from last week’s 1.7 to a 1.8 and improved on its lead-in by 22%.

Tribune’s “Bzzz” fell 11% to a 1.7 this week and was off 13% from its metered-market lead-in average.

Warner Bros.’ “In Person With Maureen O’Boyle” was flat at 1.2, as was Rysher’s “Strange Universe.”

Multimedia’s “Pat Bullard” dropped 11% for the week, from an 0.9 to an 0.8, and also was off from its metered-market lead-in average by 48%.

‘Oprah’ reigns

King World’s “Oprah” was in first place among the veteran talkers with an 8.4 rating, up 6% from the previous week and 8% better than last year.

Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” was up 22%, from a 4.5 to a 5.5. The show’s best rating was no doubt due to Tom Cruise’s highly promoted stint on the Dec. 10 show.

Buena Vista’s “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee” was in third, jumping 16% from 3.8 to 4.4, but was off 10% from last year’s 4.9. Viacom’s “Montel Williams” dipped 9% from a 4.7 to a 4.3. That was still 5% ahead of last year’s 4.1 average.

Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” was fifth among the talkers, jumping 8% from a 3.6 rating to a 3.8. That is an 11% gain over last year’s 3.5.

Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” was in sixth among yakkers, falling 7% from a 4.1 rating to a 3.8. That’s a 17% drop from last year’s 4.6 rating.

Paramount’s “Maury Povich” was flat with a 3.6 rating for the week, off 12% from last year’s 4.1. Columbia’s “Ricki Lake” was also flat at a 3.5 rating, down 19% from last year’s 4.3. Also flat was Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer,” which averaged a 2.5 for the second straight week, down 14% year-to-year.

Tribune and King World’s “Geraldo Rivera” gained 6% from a 1.7 to a 1.8 rating, while Twentieth Television’s “Gordon Elliott” was flat a t a 1.4 rating, down 33% from a year ago. King World’s “Rolonda” was flat for the week and year-to-year with a 1.3 rating.

At the top of the syndie list was King World’s “Wheel of Fortune,” which posted a 12.0 rating, a 2% drop from the previous week and 7% down from last year’s 12.9 rating. King World’s “Jeopardy!” fell 4% from a 10.1 rating to 9.7 for the week. The show was off 8% from its year-ago rating of 10.5 rating.

‘E.T.’ still leading

Among the veteran newsmagazines, Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” averaged a 6.5 rating, easily winning the week in spite of a 3% drop from a year ago.

King World’s “Inside Edition” was up 4% for the week from a 4.9 rating to a 5.1, but was down 14% from last year’s 5.9 rating and off 16% from its metered market lead-in.

Paramount’s “Hard Copy” was flat with a 4.1 for the week, but fell 15% compared to a year ago. Warner Bros.’ “Extra” finished with a 3.2, a 3% drop from the previous week and an 11% slide from last year’s 3.6.

King World’s “American Journal” finished up 4% with a 2.9 for the week, but was off 9% from its metered-market lead-ins and 19% from last year’s 3.6.

In the off-network arena, “Home Improvement” dropped 5% from a 10.8 to a 10.3, but was up 1% from last year’s 10.2 average at this time. “Seinfeld” was up 1% to an 8.1, tying its high this season and up 11% from last year’s 7.3. Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” was up 1% for the week to a 6.8 and moved 6% from last year’s 6.4. “Mad About You” gained 7% for the week to a 4.8 rating.

In the weekly category, Rysher’s “FX – The Series” averaged a 3.1 rating, a 7% increase and 24% over its 2.5 debut. Paramount’s “Viper” averaged a 2.7 rating, a 13% jump from the previous week. MGM’s “Poltergeist” averaged a 2.6 rating, down 10% for the week but up 24% since its 2.1 premiere.

Among the vets, Universal’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” averaged a 5.6 rating, which was good for a 10% increase from the previous week and 19% over its average for the same week a year ago.

Paramount’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” lost 13% for the week, from a 6.0 to a 5.2 rating. That was down 12% from last year. Universal’s “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” fell 7% to a 5.1 rating. All American’s “Baywatch” was up 25% to a 4.4 for the week, but is still off 2% from last year’s 4.5 pace.

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