Friday win for CBS a rare Eye opener

CBS cushioned the blow of a typical NBC Must See TV lineup Thursday night and earned a rare Friday night win to go along with a Saturday triumph in the Nielsen “fast national” household count, keeping the Eye web within striking distance of NBC for the May sweeps crown.

NBC seized control of the sweeps race with a 19.3 rating/31 share performance on Thursday, the best nightly showing by any network for the sweeps to date, paced by the season finales of “Friends” (16.5/29), “Seinfeld” (20.7/33) and “ER” (24.0/38).

But CBS seized Friday thanks to a 10.9/22 performance from the Bill Cosby-hosted hour special “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” It gave the network its highest household numbers in the time period in more than two years, if the fast national figures hold. And the 9.7/18 attracted by “The Miss Universe Pageant” gave CBS its best 9 p.m. showing on Friday since May 1993.

(Fast nationals are special ratings supplied by Nielsen that are ordered by a given network — in this case CBS — and give a generally accurate gauge of what the national figures will resemble when released a few days later.)

Overall, CBS came in with a 10.1/19 average for the night, its best since it ran a “Dallas” reunion special in November. ABC’s “TGIF” lineup took second at 8.7/16, with NBC third at 7.7/15 and Fox fourth with 5.7/11.

On Saturday night, meanwhile, CBS parlayed the 1-2-3 punch of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Early Edition” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” to a win (8.7/17 for the night, with NBC second at 7.0/14 in the fast nationals).

The wins gave CBS seven outright household ratings victories in the eight nights leading up to Sunday and tightened the overall May sweeps race for the first 24 nights of primetime to about one-tenth of a point behind NBC. However, the Peacock web was anticipating a windfall from its two-nighter “The Odyssey,” which began Sunday.

May sweeps officially end Wednesday night.

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