Only three of the season’s seven new firstrun strips showed any improvement in national Nielsen ratings during the second full week of the February sweeps, ending Feb. 16.

The largest increase came from an unexpected source, Rysher’s paranormal newsmagazine “Strange Universe,” which broke its 10-week stagnancy after moving to a solo anchor format and changing its production pace. “Strange” rose 17% from a 1.2 to a 1.4, its highest yet and 40% over its debut rating.

The other two new strips to improve were Paramount Domestic TV’s “Real TV,” which rose 3% to a first-place 3.4, and Worldvision’s “Judge Judy,” which surged 11% to a 2.1. “Real TV” was up 62% over its debut, while “Judge Judy” was up 50% over debut. “Judge Judy” was the only new firstrun strip to increase from its metered-market lead-in, by 5%.

The other new firstrun strips were flat or suffered losses. Twentieth TV’s “Access Hollywood” fell for the third time in the past four weeks, this time 3% to 2.9. That places it just 7% over its 2.7 debut. “Access” was second among the new firstrun strips, despite having the worst loss from its metered-market lead-in, 28%.

Warner Bros.’ “In Person With Maureen O’Boyle” was flat at 1.7 for a third straight week, but up 31% over debut. Columbia TriStar TV’s “Dating/Newlywed Hour” was flat at 1.6, its season low, also down 11% since debut. Tribune Entertainment’s “Bzzz!” lost 8% to 1.2, its season low and 25% below debut. That placed it last among the new firstrun strips.

Only one new off-net sitcom increased. WB’s “Martin” was up 3% to 3.3 and was the only new sitcom to jump from its metered-market lead-in, 5%. CTTD’s “Mad About You” was flat at 5.0, and WB’s “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” fell 5% to 2.0.

Vets mixed

Veteran off-net sitcoms were mixed. Buena Vista’s “Home Improvement” fell 2% to 10.4, but was up 3% over last year. CTTD’s “Seinfeld” gained 2% to 8.5, up 8% over last year. Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” was flat at 7.1, but up 4% over last year. King World chart-toppers “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” changed very little. “Wheel” rose 1% to 12.5, off 3% from last year; “Jeopardy!” dropped 1% to 10.3, down 4% from last year.

King World’s two magazines were the only mags to improve for the week, although both also had the worst year-to-year erosion. “Inside Edition” rose 2% to 5.2, but fell 13% from its year-ago mark. “American Journal” rose 3% to 3.4, also off 13% from last year. No magazine rose from last year, but Par’s “Entertainment Tonight,” which fell 3% for the week to 6.6, and WB’s “Extra,” which was flat at 3.5, had the smallest decline from last year, 3%.

New highs for talkers

Two veteran talkshows hit new season highs: Par’s “Maury Povich,” which climbed 12% to 4.6, up 5% from year-ago; and CTTD’s “Ricki Lake,” which rose 8% to 4.2, also up 5% from last year. Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” had the biggest year-to-year jump, rising 4% for the week and 15% year-to-year to a stellar 4.7. Universal’s other talker, “Jerry Springer,” had the biggest weekly jump, rising 15% to 3.1, up 3% from last year.

WB’s “Jenny Jones” was the only talkshow to fall this week, dropping 4% from last week’s season high to 4.5, but it was still 4% ahead of last year. Twentieth TV’s “Gordon Elliott” was flat for the week at 1.5, but had the worst loss from last year, 21%.

As expected, Universal’s “Xena” crippled her competition in the weekly arena, powering up 22% to 7.7, its highest ever and 40% over last year. Universal’s “Hercules” was second, jumping 8% to 6.9, its season high, which was up 8% from last year. Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” slipped 3% to 6.0, down 8% from last year. All American’s “Sinbad” led the frosh weeklies, rising 3% to 3.3, which is 27% over debut. Rysher’s “FX … the Series” was next, dipping 2% to 3.2, up 28% from debut.

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