'Enquirer' special strong in erratic summer sesh

Scandal was the big winner in the syndication ratings derby for the week ending June 22.

With little advance promotion, MGM’s hourlong special “National Enquirer: 25 Years of Scandals” pulled a surprisingly strong 3.1 national Nielsen household rating in airings on 161 stations covering 86% of the country. The special, hosted by the tabloid’s senior columnist Mike Walker, tied for 31st place among 150-plus nationally syndicated programs with “Babylon 5,” “Jerry Springer” and the off-net sitcoms “Roseanne” and “Married … With Children.”

MGM has one more “National Enquirer” special on tap for November, which could be followed by a fall 1998 strip if ratings for the second spec remain strong.

Summer surprises

For most regularly scheduled series, the ratings report reflected the traditional erratic viewing patterns of summer, when vacationing kids and teens take command of the remote control and warm weather inspires more outdoor activities.

The big surprise in the talkshow arena was “Montel Williams,” which nudged “Rosie O’Donnell” out of the No. 2 spot among talkers for the first time this year. Paramount’s “Montel” grew 13% week to week to score a 4.4, compared with a 4.3 for Warner Bros.’ “Rosie.” Both talkers, along with most of their competitors, were in reruns for most of the week.

As usual, King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” led the talk pack, but the show was down 11% week-to-week with a 6.6, which marked a 6% decline from the show’s performance in the same week last year.

Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” inched up 3% to a 3.9, which was still off 7% from the previous year. Buena Vista Television’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” climbed 12% over the previous week, and 6% over year-ago, to a 3.8. Paramount’s “Maury Povich” was flat week-to-week with a 3.8.

Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” inched up 3% to a 3.7, marking a 6% increase over a year ago. Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” also gained 3% week-to-week to score a 3.6. U’s “Jerry Springer” was jubilant with a 3.1, marking an 11% spike over the previous week and 7% over year-ago. Tribune Entertainment’s struggling veteran “Geraldo Rivera” climbed 5% week-to-week to a 2.2, off 4% from the previous year.

At the top of the syndie ratings chart, King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” slipped into single digits for the first time since last September, falling 6% over the previous week to a 9.9. KW’s “Jeopardy!” inched up from the previous week’s 8.2 to an 8.3.

Access magazines rebounded from the previous week’s slump. With a 5.1, Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” led its closest competitor, King World’s “Inside Edition,” by a nearly a full point. “Inside Edition” climbed 8% week-to-week to a 4.4, but was still off 22% from its year-ago mark.

Par’s “Hard Copy” was up 9% over the previous week to a 3.7; Warner Bros.’ “Extra” was flat with a 3.4. Twentieth TV/NBC’s freshman entertainment mag “Access Hollywood” moved the needle from a 2.3 to a 2.4.

The top off-network sitcoms were all in bloom, with Buena Vista’s “Home Improvement” rising week-to-week from a 7.0 to a 7.5. Columbia TriStar’s “Seinfeld” inched up 2% to a 6.7, while Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” gained 5% to a 5.9, marking an 18% increase over year-ago. Columbia TriStar’s “Mad About You” got a 6% week-to-week bounce to a 3.8.

‘Xena’ tops dramas

On the drama front, Universal’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” bested all competitors with a 5.2, posting a 16% spike over year-ago. “Xena” companion “Hercules” tied for second place with Paramount’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” with a 4.5. All American Television’s “Baywatch” surged 22% over the previous week (and 11% over year-ago) to a 3.9.

Among new action hours, All American’s “Sinbad” soared 35% to a 2.7, leading the freshman pack for the first time in 14 weeks. Eyemark Entertainment’s “Psi Factor” climbed 10% to a 2.3, tying for second place with Par’s “Viper,” which grew 15% week-to-week. With a 1.9, Rysher Entertainment’s “FX: The Series” tumbled 27% to hit its lowest rating of the season.

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