She grabs highest ratings of season in first week of Lone Star location stint

It’s no bull: Oprah Winfrey rustled her highest ratings of the season in the first week of her location stint in Amarillo, Texas, where the talkshow queen is defending herself in a defamation lawsuit filed by a group of Texas cattlemen.

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” scored an 8.3 national Nielsen household rating for the week ending Feb. 1, which marked a 9% increase from the previous week’s 7.6 rating.

Winfrey moved her Chicago-based talkshow to Texas last month in order to fight an unusual defamation lawsuit stemming from an April 1996 “Oprah Winfrey Show” about food safety and the mad cow disease scare that was then sweeping Britain.

The cattlemen’s lawsuit, under way in federal court in Amarillo, is rooted in a controversial new Texas law that makes it illegal to make “falsely disparaging” statements about the state’s perishable food products. The cattlemen contend Winfrey’s show sparked a sharp decline in cattle futures.

Bullish on Lone Star

Winfrey kicked off her Texas stand Jan. 26 with a “Welcome to Texas” show featuring country singer Clint Black, actor Patrick Swayze and taped testimonials from other Lone Star state celebs.

Winfrey’s week-to-week growth also put some distance between her and Universal TV’s surging “Jerry Springer Show,” which climbed 4% from the previous week to hit an all-time high 7.0.

Other talkers feel pinch

Winfrey and Springer aside, most of the daytime yak-pack had a tough week. Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” was flat at a 4.3. Paramount’s “Montel Williams” fell 16%, down from a 5.0 the previous week to a 4.2. Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” was off 11% to a 4.2, which tied its lowest rating of the season to date.

WB’s “Jenny Jones” eased 5% to a 4.2, while Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” sank 20% from a 4.6 to a 3.7. Par’s “Maury Povich” was flat at a 3.2. In latenight, newcomers “Vibe” and “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” both dipped week-to-week to a 1.6.

Prez still a hot ticket

For access magazine shows, the hot story of the week was President Clinton’s firm denial during a Jan. 26 press conference that he had been intimate with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” rallied that night to a season-high 8.0 household rating; for the week, “ET” was up 1% to a 7.0.

King World’s “Inside Edition” inched up 2% to a 4.9, and Warner Bros.’ “Extra” gained 7% to a 4.6. Par’s “Hard Copy” slipped 3% from a season-high the previous week to a 3.7. KW’s “American Journal” was up 3% to a 3.1, while NBC/Twentieth TV’s “Access Hollywood” hit a new high for the season, rising 4% to a 2.6.

Among other reality strips, Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” subpoenaed a 2% increase to a 4.5; Par’s “Real TV” jumped 11% to a 3.9, its highest number since November.

At the top of the syndie charts, King World gameshows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” both dipped 5% to a 12.4 and 10.3, respectively.

For syndie’s freshman class, the audience was in session for Warner Bros.’ “The People’s Court,” which grew 4% week-to-week to a 2.9. Eyemark Entertainment’s “Martha Stewart Living” fell 4% to a 2.5, while companion half-hour “Gayle King” was unchanged at a 2.0. Worldvision gameshow “Pictionary” tumbled 7% to a 1.4.

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