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‘X-Files,’ ‘Springer’ steal sweeps thunder

More than a few syndie legends of the fall were upset during the past November sweep.

The final Nielsen report card on the November book is still a few weeks off, but national numbers are in for all but the final three days of the November ratings period, Oct. 30-Nov. 26.

Reruns of Fox phenom “The X-Files” muscled past the “Home Improvement”/”Seinfeld” juggernaut and firstrun veterans like “Oprah Winfrey” and “Entertainment Tonight” for a clean sweep of the No. 1 ranking in the key demographic categories of adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

Paramount’s “Star Trek” franchise lost its grip on the top firstrun weekly drama crown for the first November sweep since 1988.

Universal TV’s enfant terrible “Jerry Springer” muscled past talkshow veterans “Sally Jessy Raphael,” “Montel Williams,” “Jenny Jones” and “Ricki Lake” to mount a serious challenge to “Rosie O’Donnell’s” hold on the No. 2 spot among yakkers.

An ‘Extra’ boost

Warner Bros.’ big-budget newsmag “Extra” began to show some spunk in its fourth season, narrowly edging “Inside Edition” out of second place among access magazines.

Eyemark Entertainment’s “Martha Stewart Living” topped the list of syndie freshmen. Latenight upstarts “Keenen Ivory Wayans” and “Vibe” were in a dead heat, while sophomore reality strips “Real TV” and “Judge Judy” posted healthy gains in their second November sweeps entry.

“The X-Files’ ” performance in broadcast syndication on weekends was particularly impressive because reruns of the cult-fave drama air in primetime Monday-Friday on Fox’s FX basic cabler. Over the four-week sweep period, weekend broadcasts of the “The X-Files,” mostly in prime access or latenight, averaged a 7.8 household rating.

‘Xena’ stays hot

Among firstrun dramas, Universal TV’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” roped the No. 1 spot, as she did in the past May and February sweeps.

“Xena” scored a 6.3 household rating, up 11% from her showing in November ’96. Fellow U traveler “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” were tied for second place with a 6.0. “Hercules” was up 2% from its year-ago benchmark, while “DS9” was off 9%.

Rounding out the top 5 were two more off-net hours with dual broadcast/cable syndie windows, Columbia TriStar’s “Walker, Texas Ranger” (5.0) and Twentieth TV’s “NYPD Blue” (4.2).

Firstrun newcomer “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict,” from Tribune Entertainment and Atlantis Films, scored a respectable 4.1. All American TV’s “Baywatch” docked with a 3.6, down 18% from last November. Buena Vista TV’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The Series” inflated nicely to a 3.5, while another freshman, Eyemark’s James Brolin starrer “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” earned a 3.4.

MGM’s “The Outer Limits” is holding its ground in its third season with a 3.3, off 6% from its year-ago mark. Tribune Entertainment’s “Nightman” scared up a 3.1 in its first November book.

Crowded at the bottom

In a sign of how crowded the weekly hour marketplace is with new firstrun and off-net entries, eight newcomers weighed in with less than a 3 household rating: Par’s “Wild Things” (2.6); Universal’s “Team Knight Rider” (2.6); Warner Bros.’ “Policy Academy” (2.5); Rysher Entertainment’s “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” (2.3); Western Intl. Syndication’s “Conan: The Adventurer” (1.8); MGM’s “Fame L.A.” (1.6); Polygram TV’s “Due South” (1.4); and MG/Perin’s “Mike Hammer” (1.1).

Among daytime talkshows, King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” led the field, as she has for the past decade, but she also was one of only two veteran talkers to post a double-digit drop from November ’96. “Oprah” had a four-week average of a 7.9, off 11% from last November.

It was a tight race throughout the sweep for the No. 2 spot, but Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” prevailed by a nose — actually, Barbra Streisand’s nose. The diva’s rare chatshow appearance on the final Friday of the sweep generated the highest ratings in “Rosie’s” 18-month tenure in talk TV. “Rosie O’Donnell” finished with a four-week average of a 5.1, up 21% from year-ago, to “Jerry Springer’s” 4.9, a cool 81% spike over last November.

‘Live,’ ‘Sally’ rise

Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” and Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” tied for fourth place with a 4.5. “Live” gained 7% over last year while “Sally” grew 10%. Par’s “Montel Williams” garnered a 4.4, up 2% from year-ago, but “Maury Povich,” who is soon to jump ship from Par to U, sank 14% from last year to a 3.2.

Also at a 3.2 was Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake,” off 6% year-to-year in its fifth season. Heading up the rear was Tribune Entertainment’s soon-to-depart “Geraldo Rivera,” which inched up 5% from year-ago to a 2.1.

In latenight, rival freshmen “Vibe” and “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” were tied at a 1.7. “Vibe” has gained ground over the past month with the introduction of Sinbad as host, while “Wayans” has held steady with its October and September averages. Both talk-variety strips are down more than 20% from their August premieres, and their showing in key major markets in November and the upcoming February sweep will likely determine if either will return for a second year.

Eyemark Entertainment’s “Martha Stewart Living” led the field among freshman syndie strips with a 2.8 average. The verdict on Warner Bros.’ “The People’s Court” was a 2.6. Eyemark’s “Gayle King” talker did a 2.1 and Worldvision’s gameshow “Pictionary” drew a 1.4. The already-canceled “Home Team With Terry Bradshaw” (0.9) and “Arthel & Fred” (0.5) just couldn’t draw a crowd.

At the top of the syndie charts, as usual, were King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” “Wheel’s” 12.6 household average was up 3% from last year, while “Jeopardy!” inched up 2% to a 10.4. Another gameshow block wasn’t so lucky. Col TriStar’s “Dating Game” and “Newlywed Game” came in at a 0.9, down 50% from November ’96.

Access magazines up

In the access magazine world, Warner Bros.’ “Extra” made it an interesting contest, surging 31% year-to-year to a 4.6 average, thanks in part to numerous timeslot and station upgrades over the past year. However, Paramount’s venerable “Entertainment Tonight” still won the sweep by its widest margin since 1994. “ET” landed a 6.5, up 3% from November ’96.

King World’s “Inside Edition” was right behind “Extra” with a 4.5, down 12% from year-ago. Par’s “Hard Copy” dropped 16% to a 3.6, while King World’s “American Journal” eased 3% to a 3.0. “Access Hollywood,” from NBC and Twentieth TV, pulled a 2.3, down 26% from year-ago. “Access’ ” February sweep perf should be aided by more than a dozen upgrades that will kick in next year.

Indeed, dozens of station and timeslot upgrades that took effect in September have transformed Par’s “Real TV” and Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” from promising freshmen to sophomore sensations this season. Both shows hit new all-time highs in the most recent national ratings report for the week ending Nov. 23. “Real TV” had a four-week average of a 3.6, up 29% from year-ago. Superwoman “Judge Judy” is up a staggering 119% over last year to a 3.5.

Finally, the comedy quotient. As expected, Paramount’s “Frasier” is the hot off-network sitcom entry of the season. “Frasier” averaged a 5.3 in its first syndie sweep. Carsey-Werner’s “Grace Under Fire” brought home a 3.2, followed by Warner Bros.’ “Living Single” (2.5) and Buena Vista’s “Boy Meets World” (2.4).

Among the returning off-net strips, Buena Vista’s “Home Improvement” reigned with a 9.0, down 16% from year-ago. Col TriStar’s “Seinfeld” followed with an 8.0, even with November ’96. Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” eased 13% to a 6.0 and Col TriStar’s “Mad About You” was off 25% to a 3.6.

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