Wild animals and bumbling cops led the charge of new syndie weeklies premiering the week of Sept. 22.

“Wild Things,” Paramount’s new National Geographic-meets-“Cops” hour, rustled up a 2.5 national Nielsen household rating in its debut. The show averaged a 1.6 in the key demo of adults 18-49, adding fuel to the conventional wisdom among TV programmers that animals, both cute and carnivorous, are a big draw with viewers these days.

Warner Bros.’ syndie spinoff “Police Academy: The Series” recruited a 2.3 in households and a 1.4 in adults 18-49. Stacy Keach’s return as “Mike Hammer: Private Eye” averaged just a 1.1 in households, as did “Ghost Stories,” All American TV’s latenight anthology series hosted by Rip Torn.

The first national rating for Rysher Entertainment’s “Soldier of Fortune Inc.” was delayed due to a glitch in Nielsen’s tabulation process.

After a lofty start the previous week, household ratings for Eyemark Entertainment’s “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” dropped 16% in week two to a 3.1. Reruns of CBS’ Chuck Norris drama “Walker, Texas Ranger” held firm at a 4.1, unchanged from the previous week. “Due South,” from Polygram TV, also was flat with a 1.5, although the dramedy’s numbers have picked up in some of Nielsen’s overnight metered markets.

All American TV’s “Baywatch” and Rysher Entertainment’s “Highlander” were the only veteran action hours to bow that week. “Baywatch” splashed down in its eighth season opener with a 3.6 in households and a 1.9 in adults 18-49, down in households from last year’s season opener. Longrunning cult fave “Highlander” mustered a 2.5 in households and 1.7 in adults 18-49.

Turning to daytime, ratings for veteran yakkers are perking up now that the kids are back in school and cold weather is returning in many parts of the country. As for the season’s freshmen, Eyemark’s “Martha Stewart Living” gained a notch in households from a 2.5 to a 2.6. Warner Bros.’ “The People’s Court” was flat with a 2.3. Eyemark’s “Gayle King” grew 11% from a 1.8 to a 2.0.

“Home Team With Terry Bradshaw,” from Comcast’s C3 and Twentieth TV, was flat at 0.8, while All American TV’s “Arthel & Fred” weighed in with its first national rating at 0.5.

At the other end of the scale, King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” was on top with a 7.4 in households, flat from the previous week, which marked her 11th season premiere. Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” grew 9% week-to-week to a 4.8.

Buena Vista TV’s “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee” upticked 5% to a 4.0, tying for third place with Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael,” which was up 11% in its season preem week. Paramount’s “Montel Williams” and Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” were unchanged from the previous week, with a 3.9 and 3.5, respectively.

U’s “Jerry Springer” climbed 13% week-to-week from a 3.0 to a 3.4. Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” grew 12% to a 2.9. Par’s “Maury Povich” bounced back from a six-year low with an 8% hike to a 2.8. Tribune Entertainment’s “Geraldo Rivera” moved from a 1.8 to a 1.9.

In gameshow action, King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” topped the syndie charts, as usual, with an 11.1 and 9.0, respectively. In sharp contrast, Columbia TriStar’s “Dating Game/Newlywed Hour” pulled in a mere 0.7.

‘ET’ up slightly

Among the access magazine shows, Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” was up 2% week-to-week with a 5.8. Warner Bros.’ “Extra” was flat with a 4.2, but the newsmag is up more than 40% over its year-ago average. The show’s ratings have spiked over the past four weeks, a bounce seemingly attributable to increased viewer sampling following the death of Princess Diana.

King World’s “Inside Edition” grew 8% week-to-week to a 4.2, while Par’s “Hard Copy” inched up to a 3.2. King World’s “American Journal” rose 4% to a 2.6 and “Access Hollywood” gained 10% to land at a 2.2.

In the off-network world, Par’s new entry “Frasier” continued to sparkle, jumping 7% from a 4.4 in its premiere week to a 4.7. Carsey-Werner’s “Grace Under Fire” trailed with a 2.8, and reruns of Warner Bros.’ “Living Single” debuted to a 2.2. Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement” led the field with a 7.7, followed by Columbia TriStar’s “Seinfeld” with a 7.1.

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