ABC's 'Home Improvement' left in dust

NBC has padded its huge May sweeps lead with the biggest win ever by “Frasier” over slot rival “Home Improvement.”

Tuesday’s “Frasier” scored a 14.0 rating, 21 share in homes and a 9.1/23 in adults 18-49, giving the Kelsey Grammer sitcom its biggest margins of victory ever over ABC’s “Improvement” (9.1/14 and 5.7/14 respectively). It was the highest-rated “Frasier” since Nov. 4 and lowest-rated firstrun “Improvement” ever.

Fox tied NBC for first for the night in adults 18-49 and actually won head-to-head from 8-10 p.m. with “World’s Scariest Police Chases” (8.6/14 in homes and 6.1/18 in adults 18-49) and “Surviving the Moment of Impact” (9.1/14 and 6.8/17).

NBC’s strong Tuesday was probably, to some extent, a residual benefit of its huge Sunday-Monday ratings from “Merlin.” Heavy “Frasier” promotion during that mini implied (though the Tuesday episode didn’t deliver) the start of an open romance between the characters Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves).

“Merlin” promotion probably also helped “Dateline NBC” to its best Tuesday score since Feb. 3. The magic didn’t extend to the tiring “Mad About You” (7.9/14), which slowed to its lowest firstrun rating ever.

CBS’ “JAG” (9.9/16) won the 8-9 p.m. hour in homes with its highest rating since Nov. 18. “JAG” has led its slot in homes with each of its last four firstrun episodes.

NBC’s strong Tuesday has given it a 41% advantage over second-place CBS in sweeps-month households averages (12.8/22 vs. 9.1/15) and a 67% advantage over Fox in adults 18-49 (an 8.7 rating vs. 5.2). The four-week sweep ends May 20.

WB hit “Dawson’s Creek” (4.8/7) picked up where it left off before five weeks of reruns, while rival weblet UPN suffered worst-ever firstrun scores for “Moesha” (1.9/3) and “Malcolm & Eddie” (1.9/3). For the night, WB doubled UPN in adults 18-49 (2.4/7 vs. 1.2/3).

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’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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