Hot days and fresh shows propelled Universal TV’s “Jerry Springer” to its highest national rating in more than two years, according to Nielsen Media Research’s syndie ratings report for the week ending July 20.

After posting strong growth the previous week, “Jerry Springer” surged another 12% to score a 3.7 in the first full week of the July sweeps, which marked the show’s strongest performance since February 1995.

In the 11 p.m.-midnight slot on KCAL Los Angeles, the talkshow often criticized for its sensationalistic tone outrated the first half-hour of CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” and ABC’s “Nightline” for the entire week.

Ratings-watchers chalked up gains for “Springer” and other younger-skewing talkers to increased viewership among vacationing kids and teens.

“Springer,” which aired a week of originals when some competing talkers alternated fresh episodes with reruns, was up 32% over the same time-frame last year.

Strong week

At the top of the yak pack, King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” also had a strong week, leaping 17% from the previous week to a 7.6. Warner Bros. “Jenny Jones” came in second among talkers with a 5% week-to-week gain to a 4.6. “Jenny” was up 10% over her year-ago mark.

Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” bested Paramount’s “Montel Williams” for the No. 3 spot with a 4.4, marking a 19% hike over year-ago. “Montel” recovered from a season-low the previous week to score a 4.3.

Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell,” offering a week of reruns from February, dipped 5% from the previous week to land at a 4.0, tying with Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake,” which was flat week-to-week.

Off 7%

Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” inched up 3% to a 3.9, but was still off 7% from its year-ago mark. Par’s “Maury Povich,” beaten on a national scale for the first time ever by “Jerry Springer,” garnered a 3.4, down 3% for the week and 8% from year-ago. Tribune Entertainment’s “Geraldo Rivera” rounded out the talk list with a 10% week-to-week gain to a 2.3.

Outside of the talk arena, there wasn’t much action among other prominent strips. King World’s perennial chart-toppers “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” dipped slightly from the previous week, with a 9.9 and 8.2, respectively.

In the access magazine field, Warner Bros.’ “Extra” rose 6% week-to-week to tie Paramount’s “Hard Copy” for the second time in the past six weeks with a 3.5. “Hard Copy” was flat from the previous week.

Par’s “Entertainment Tonight” led the genre, as usual, with a 5.2. King World’s “Inside Edition” climbed 5% to a 4.5, while its companion show “American Journal” fell 3% to a 3.0. Twentieth TV/NBC’s “Access Hollywood” grew 4% week-to-week to a 2.4.

Off-network sitcoms were little changed, although Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement” and Col TriStar’s “Seinfeld” ticked up from the previous week.

Outside of Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” and Twentieth’s “Cops,” which notched slight gains, reality strips were flat week-to-week.

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