NBC well ahead of pack

But Peacock's Monday night sitcoms lag

NBC dominated the March 2-8 primetime Nielsens, as late-season schedule changes on the competition have only added distance between the Peacock and its pursuers.

WB was the star of the week, bagging its highest weeklong rating ever and series-record ratings from “7th Heaven,” “Smart Guy,” “Steve Harvey” and “Alright Already.”

On Monday of this week NBC’s foundering sitcom lineup took on more water, as the premiere of “House Rules” settled for a soggy 7.5 rating, 11 share (though demo results showed more promise). Then “Caroline in the City” (7.1/11) and “The Naked Truth” (5.7/9) sunk to lowest-ever firstrun ratings. “Naked” exposed what’s apparently the weakest original-programming rating for that 9:30-10 p.m. half-hour in NBC history (excluding political broadcasts), and the net has now pulled the show.

CBS also lost all hope that “The Closer” might be headed to hit status, as the Tom Selleck sitcom lost another 18% of its rating and fell to an uncompetitive 7.8/12.

That 9-10 p.m. hour is now ruled by the Fox hit “Ally McBeal” (11.0/17), which set a series record for the fifth time in its last six firstrun airings.

The March 2-8 week saw CBS’ post-Olympics schedule changes bring more grief than gratification. “Four Corners” and Wednesday tries for “Cybill” and “Michael Hayes” failed spectacularly, more than offsetting the moderate success of “Candid Camera” and mediocre results from “The Closer” and the Tuesday edition of “Public Eye.”

ABC settled for mixed results with its latest schedule shifts, getting a credible Tuesday start from “Something So Right” and a poor Friday perf from “Hiller and Diller.” ABC ended up behind Fox for the week in most key demos and, for the fourth time in five weeks, in total viewers.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 6.4 rating, 17 share (up in rating vs. the same week last year by 5%); Fox, 5.7/15 (up 4%); ABC, 4.8/13 (down 2%); CBS, 3.8/10 (down 10%); UPN, 1.9/5 (up 12%), tied with WB, 1.9/5 (up 46%). WB tied its highest 18-49 average ever and UPN rose to its highest in 15 weeks.

Monday

The March 9 competition found itself under the heel of “Ally McBeal,” which won its hour by a dominant 8 shares in adults 18-49.

That led Fox to a nightlong win in households and virtually every key demo (though ABC had the higher 8-10 p.m. homes average).

NBC’s premiere of “House Rules” struggled in homes but did retain 96% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Suddenly Susan” (8.3/13 in homes) to cling to second-place that half-hour. CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” (10.3/16 in homes) almost caught “Rules” in the 18-49 demo with a hefty 30% build on its 18-49 lead-in from “Cosby” (9.8/15 in homes).

Compared with the year-ago Monday, Fox was up a sterling 36% in adults 18-49, ABC was up 35%, NBC was down 5% and CBS was down 31%.

Sunday

Fox took the night in adults 18-49 by an overpowering 6 shares.

CBS swept the night in homes and was second in the 18-49 demo, as “To Live Again” won the 9-11 p.m. film showdown.

Saturday

NBC’s regulars came back after a month off to win the Saturday 18-49 race by 2 shares, while CBS kept ahead in homes.

CBS’ “Magnificent Seven” is doing okay at 9 p.m., last week building by 3% on its 25-54 lead-in from “Dr. Quinn,” vs. the 5% gain slot predecessor “Early Edition” averaged in the post-“Quinn” slot since NBC moved “The Pretender” to that hour.

ABC’s “Nothing Sacred” may be ready for last rites, plunging 24% below its previous lowest rating. It was ABC’s worst Saturday 18-49 average since August.

Friday

CBS showed more Friday promise, as “Candid Camera” built again on its key-demo lead-ins from “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (up 11% in adults 25-54). At 9 p.m., a special “JAG” held 78% of the “Darndest”-“Candid” hour’s 25-54 audience, up impressively from the 52% figure earned by the previous week’s sitcoms. While Tuesday mainstay “JAG” probably isn’t available for regular Friday service, these results do suggest there’s a viable alternative if CBS bails out of its Friday sitcom strategy.

“Hiller and Diller” proved of little use to ABC’s “TGIF” lineup, retaining just 74% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Sabrina.” Struggling slot predecessor “Teen Angel” averaged 76% in six tries this quarter, while two “Boy Meets World” episodes averaged 92%.

NBC got beaten up, with “Players” suffering NBC’s worst homes rating that hour with firstrun regular programming since Christmas Eve 1993 (“Against the Grain”) and “Homicide” crumpling to its worst firstrun rating ever. It was NBC’s lowest-rated Friday with firstrun regular programming since Sept. 29, 1995.

ABC won what had been a close night when the highest-rated “20/20” since Jan. 9 dominated the 10-11 p.m. hour. From 8-10 p.m., the four nets had been separated by just 2 shares in adults 18-49.

Thursday

A firstrun “ER,” essentially an extra left over because NBC aired reruns opposite the Olympics, led NBC to a dominating Thursday win.

“Just Shoot Me” remains on target in the 8:30 slot, holding 97% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends.”

“Billy Madison” earned ABC’s best Thursday-pic 18-49 rating this season.

Fox’s “NAACP Image Awards” stumbled 21% below its 1997 rating.

Wednesday

CBS’ new Wednesday lineup got crunched, with “Cybill” falling to fifth in its slot in adults 18-49 behind UPN and “Michael Hayes” making network history by landing sixth behind both UPN and WB (Daily Variety, March 6). The engagement episode of “The Nanny” managed to ring up that series’ strongest rating since Nov. 5.

It was a big night for the netlets, as “Star Trek: Voyager” achieved UPN’s highest orbit in adults 18-34 and all male demos since Sept. 3, and WB got its second-highest Wednesday rating ever thanks to record ratings from “Smart Guy” and “Steve Harvey.”

For the night, ABC nipped Fox for first in adults 18-49 while NBC’s Garth Brooks special strummed a winning tune in households.

Tuesday

Fox conjured up its first non-baseball Tuesday households win ever with its pair of “Magic’s Biggest Secrets” specials. The 9-10 p.m. firstrun “Secrets” was down 20% from last November’s blockbuster original spec, but it was still Fox’s second-highest-rated non-sports Tuesday special ever.

A guest appearance by Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith on “Frasier” boosted NBC to the Tuesday win in adults 18-49.

CBS’ “Four Corners” was foreclosed after plunging to the Eye’s second-worst rating that hour since the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Wednesday transfer “Public Eye” was also uncompetitive at 9 p.m., but did manage CBS’ best non-sports 25-54 rating in that slot since Jan. 6. WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” beat “Public Eye” head-to-head in adults 18-49 and CBS finished just 0.1 rating points ahead of WB in that demo for the night.

The ABC debut of NBC refugee “Something So Right” fit right in at 8:30, building by 2% on its 18-49 lead-in from “Home Improvement,” ABC’s best slot perf in five weeks. But “Something” was wrong at 9:30, where it lost 29% of that 18-49 lead-in, ABC’s second-worst retention there in five weeks.

UPN’s 9 p.m. rerun of “Moesha” hit a series-low rating.

Monday

“Ally McBeal” grabbed March 2 nightlong wins for Fox in adults 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and all key female demos. Fox took the night by a powerful 10 shares in adults 18-34. “Braveheart” led the NBC charge into first in households (Daily Variety, March 4).

“7th Heaven” ascended to its highest rating ever, doubling its score from the year-ago Monday and earning the night’s top rating in teens and kids.

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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