The CBS Eye has rolled into first for the March 3-9 primetime Nielsens week, helped along by a record “Touched by an Angel” and a strong start for its revamped Monday lineup. NBC led the week in adults 18-49 and 25-54.

Combined with the previous week’s tie with NBC, CBS earned a share of first for a second week in a row, some-thing it hadn’t accomplished since November 1994.

There’s still work to be done demographically, though — CBS finished the week fourth among many key audience segments, including its target demo, adults 25-54.

ABC had another week wrecked by the historically low-rated “Apocalypse Watch” two-parter, which dropped ABC to its lowest-rated regular season week ever (households) and into a tie for the worst-rated regular-season week for any of the Big Three. CBS probably did as well as any of the nets last week with schedule changes and premieres. Wednesday’s “Temporarily Yours” got off to a promising start, and the Eye web’s revamped Monday lineup looks to be a decent improvement over the previous team (despite a falloff in performance on Monday of this week). Only ABC’s return of “Step By Step” to the “T.G.I.F.” lineup brought similarly impressive timeslot improvement among the net’s sked changes last week.

ABC got respectable numbers but no dramatic breakthroughs from last week’s eagerly anticipated premieres of “The Practice” and “Arsenio,” while NBC basically held steady with its debut of “Just Shoot Me” (albeit with a solid build on that slot’s lead-in). ABC’s “Vital Signs,” CBS’ “Feds” and Fox’s “Pauly” look okay so far, at least relative to the modest expectations for their nets in those slots.

Among the recently premiering or reskedded shows that are misfiring so far are NBC’s “Prince Street,” “Crisis Center” and “Wings,” CBS’ “EZ Streets” and ABC’s “Spy Game,” plus the reskedded “Ellen” and “Dangerous Games.” Last week’s households loss by NBC (ending a five-week streak in or tied for first) reflects, in part, NBC’s vulnerability on weeks it rests “ER.” NBC still easily prevailed last week, for the 23rd time in 25 weeks this season, among adults 18-49, the demographic that most closely reflects overall advertiser demand.

The March 3-9 averages in that demo were: NBC, a 6.1 rating, 17 share (down 8% in rating vs. results for the same week last year); Fox, 5.5/15 (up 10%); ABC, 4.9/14 (down 14%); CBS, 4.2/12 (down 2%); UPN, 1.7/5 (down 6%); WB, 1.3/3 (down 7%).

CBS’ households win last week came despite significant affiliate defections, particularly on Thursday and Friday, for a Billy Graham special.

Monday

Fox and NBC tied for first on Monday of this week (March 10) in adults 18-49 (with Fox winning head-to-head 8-10 p.m.). CBS led in homes despite a quick falloff for its revamped lineup. NBC undercut the CBS momentum with special showings of “Frasier” (8.9 rating, 14 share), “Men Behaving Badly” (8.1/13) and “Dateline NBC” (11.5/20).

CBS’ 8-10 p.m. sitcom lineup faded by 21% among adults 25-54 in its second try. In fact, the new lineup fell 5% behind the previous schedule’s 25-54 average over its last nine weeks. “Everybody Loves Raymond” (10.4/17 in homes) still looks good on Mondays, building by 4% on its 25-54 lead-in from “Cosby” (11.5/19).

Fox’s “Pauly” (5.3/9) also took a second-week tumble, retaining just 80% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Married … With Children” (6.6/10), compared to a previous-week 93% retention.

The game may be up for ABC’s “Spy Game” (5.7/9), which faded by 9% vs. its poor premiere 18-49 rating of last week.

Though national numbers weren’t available, the two-hour premiere of the series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” scared up the best Monday overnights in WB history, a 5.1/8. The previous record (4.4/7) was set last Aug. 26. It was also WB’s first overnights win vs. the UPN’s Monday comedy lineup.

Sunday

Fox easily took the night in adults 18-49, as “King of the Hill” made a statement, improving on its 18-49 lead-in from “The Simpsons” for the seventh regular airing in a row. That gain came despite a rerun episode and a head-to-head airing in the East and Midwest vs. the night’s most formidable 18-49 competitor, NBC’s “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

Both “King” and “Rock,” though, were humbled by CBS’ “Touched by an Angel,” with guest star Priscilla Presley. “Angel” rose to series-record levels in homes, adults 25-54 and adults 18-49 (a tie), and topped both slot-rival sit-coms in adults 18-49. “Angel’s” record flight was followed by “To Dance With Olivia,” the season’s second-highest-rated vidpic (in households, behind only “Mrs. Santa Claus”), helping CBS to its highest regular-sked Sunday rating since April 30, 1995 (“Buffalo Girls”). CBS took the night in homes and adults 25-54.

Saturday

Fox passed the stumbling Big Three in adults 18-49 and tied NBC for first in adults 25-54. CBS fell to third by both measures, as an 8-9 p.m. skating spec slipped to CBS’ lowest 25-54 marks in that hour since Christmas week. That helped dump the fading “Early Edition” to CBS’ lowest firstrun regular-series rating (households) in that slot since July 11, 1994 (“Muddling Through” and “Hearts Afire”). At 10 p.m., “Walker, Texas Ranger” fell into a slot tie with “Profiler” among adults 25-54.

Friday

ABC won the night by 3 shares among adults 18-49, as “Step By Step” brought immediate relief in the 9:30 half-hour. “Step” held 100% of its 18-49 lead-in, a season-best perf for ABC in the post-”Sabrina” slot and a powerful improvement over the 85% average of slot predecessor “Clueless.”

“Crisis Center’s” condition deteriorated significantly in its second try — down 28% in adults 18-49 from its pre-miere, for NBC’s worst 18-49 average in that slot (regular season) since Sept. 29, 1995 (baseball).

Local preemptions for Billy Graham and college hoops kept all net audiences down this night. At 8 p.m. “Dave’s World” tumbled to that series’ lowest rating ever, including summer reruns.

Thursday

NBC won as usual, but got a hint of how vital “ER” may be to that lineup when a special “Prince Street” preview managed a mere 8.1 rating in adults 18-49, exactly half what “ER” averages in the hour. It’s NBC’s lowest regular-season homes rating in that slot since Oct. 27, 1994 (a “Sweet Justice” rerun). “Street” will air regularly Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

Viewer apathy toward “Prince” may have been a factor as early as 9:30, when a surprising 21% of NBC’s 18-49 viewers bailed out on a special “3rd Rock.” That makes “The Naked Truth” look a little more respectable, having averaged a 19% dropoff in the 9:30 half-hour, though “Naked” has always been hammocked between “Seinfeld” and “ER.”

At 8:30, “Suddenly Susan” retained 94% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends,” vs. a 91% slot average for “The Single Guy.”

ABC’s “Vital Signs” dropped 9% in adults 18-49 in its second try, but that’s still better than the last nine “Murder One” scores in the slot. At 10 p.m., “Turning Point” reported a season-high 18-49 score.

Wednesday

While the Big Three pounded each other with a total of four premieres, Fox dramas snuck off with the nightlong win in adults 18-49. ABC got a solid but unspectacular start from its eagerly anticipated sitcom “Arsenio,” which held 90% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Drew Carey,” compared to an 88% average for slot predecessor “Ellen.”

That same half-hour, NBC’s slot debut of “Just Shoot Me” built by a strong 14% on its adults 18-49 lead-in from “Wings.” That’s down a bit from slot predecessor “Men Behaving Badly,” which averaged a 17% build over its “NewsRadio” lead-in during their last 11 airings. At 9 p.m., the transferred “Wings,” circling toward its final landing, could only match “NewsRadio’s” weak 18-49 average in that slot over its previous five airings.

CBS got the night’s most encouraging premiere with “Temporarily Yours,” which held 100% of its 25-54 lead-in from “The Nanny.” That’s up dramatically over the 80% average of slot predecessor “Pearl.” At 9 p.m., “Feds” managed a substantial 15% improvement over the 25-54 average of films and “Coast to Coast” in that slot over their past five airings. Then at 10 p.m., “EZ Streets” returned with a modest 3% improvement over the 25-54 aver-age for those same five weeks (but a fatter 34% build over its year-ago 25-54 average in the same slot).

Tuesday

Viewers gave “Ellen” an icy reception on Tuesday, dropping the soon-to-be-outed sitcom character to ABC’s lowest regular-season firstrun rating in that slot (non-sports) in more than 13 years (since Dec. 20, 1983′s “Leprechaun’s Christmas”). “Ellen’s” 6% dropoff from “Roseanne’s” 18-49 lead-in was also slightly larger than the 5% decline averaged by slot regular “Life’s Work.” Special “Mad About You” competition may have toughened things for “Ellen.”

At 10 p.m., ABC’s premiere of “The Practice” failed to match the net’s timeslot standard, falling 17% below “NYPD Blue’s” firstrun 18-49 season average. Still, “Practice’s” slot-winning 7.5/21 in the 18-49 demo solidly tops the 6.5/18 and 6.8/19 earned in the same hour at the start of the season by special episodes of “High Incident” and “Relativity.”

Despite those mixed results, ABC’s revamped lineup won the night by four shares among adults 18-49.

Monday

Fox prevailed in Monday (March 3) 8-10 p.m. 18-49 averages, while NBC led 8-11 p.m. CBS’ strong-starting re-vamped lineup won in homes. ABC’s “Apocalypse Watch” wound down to the lowest regular-season firstrun mul-tiple-parter rating in TV history. (Daily Variety, March 5).

There may be life after all for “Life With Roger,” WB’s struggling Sunday sitcom, which got a Monday try and equaled the netlet’s second-best rating that hour in 13 weeks. “Roger” got extra life from its lead-in, a record “Seventh Heaven.” Meanwhile, UPN led 8-10 p.m. among kids.

Each rating point represents an estimated 970,000 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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