‘Camera’ clicks for CBS

But sitcoms can't hold lead

“Candid Camera” has brought a smile to CBS, joining the Friday schedule with a solid 8.6 rating, 15 share, and building on its lead-in in virtually every key demo.

But, as with the earlier addition to that lineup of “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” the boost “Camera” brought CBS failed to help the Eye’s struggling Friday sitcoms, which remained deep in fourth place from 9-10 p.m. by most important measures.

Friday also featured NBC’s Soap Opera Digest Awards, which took home a preliminary national Nielsen score of a 9.9 rating, 18 share. If those tallies stand up in final nationals, they would equal last year’s totals. The “Digest” awards were enough to boost NBC past ABC for Friday wins in households and all key adult and women demos. In adults 18-49, the kudocast awarded NBC its best Friday 9-11 p.m. average in 15 weeks.

At 8:30, the series return of “Candid Camera” recorded increases of 40% in homes, 38% in adults 18-49 and 41% in adults 25-54 vs. CBS’ regular-sked averages in that slot this season.

It was actually the lowest-rated firstrun “Camera” since a June 19, 1992, special (4.6/10), but the drop-off was a modest 11% from the powerful average of CBS’ last five firstrun “Camera” specials.

The big boost CBS has generated in the 8-9 p.m. hour with “Darndest” and “Camera” has done little for the net’s 9-10 p.m. sitcoms. Last Friday, “Gregory Hines” (5.2/9) lost 37% of its adults 25-54 lead-in from “Camera,” then “Step by Step” (4.5/8) fumbled away another 19% at 9:30.

ABC still owns kids and teens from 8-10 p.m. Fridays, posting shares of 29 and 31 in those demos respectively last week vs. CBS’ pair of 6 shares.

Saturday’s preliminary nationals show CBS edging NBC’s “Golden Gala” skating spec in adults 18-49 (with a 4.1 rating vs. a 3.9) and 25-54 (4.9 vs. 4.7), but both races are close enough that the margins might disappear when final nationals are released Tuesday. CBS and NBC tied for first in households with identical marks of 8.7/16.

CBS’ “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (8.4/15) returned to the schedule after a 10-week rest and topped its season-long adults 25-54 average by 7%. “The Magnificent Seven” (7.4/13) shifted to the 9-10 p.m. hour and finished 9% behind the homes average of slot predecessor “Early Edition.”

In final nationals for Thursday, “Just Shoot Me” joined that killer NBC lineup with solid numbers, but definitely was down a notch from the hot figures it posted in an earlier Thursday test.

“Shoot” (15.0/23 in homes) retained 91% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends” (16.5/26 in homes), down from a 99% retention in a four-weeks-earlier special tryout. “Shoot” is still far ahead of the 81% average for slot predecessor “Union Square.”

ABC suffered another self-inflicted sweeps-month wound Thursday when the three-hour vidpic “Virtual Obsession” fell to a 4.8/8, apparently the lowest in-season Thursday rating in ABC history.

NBC won Thursday with an average 14.9/38 in adults 18-49, 27 shares better than second-place Fox and even a share better than the top-rated night of the recently completed Olympics.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 980,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.23 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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