1st time this season Peacock fails to get No. 1

ABC got game last week, rising to the top of the ratings charts behind “Monday Night Football” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

According to Nielsen, the Alphabet net cruised to victory for the week of Dec. 18-24 in both total viewers (11.83 million) and adults 18-49 (4.2/13), topping the runners-up by more than 20%. ABC also logged its first outright victory of the season in adults 18-34 (3.6/12), a category dominated by Fox and NBC for the last 11 weeks.

“Monday Night Football,” a thriller between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, ranked as the week’s No. 1 show in adults 18-49 (9.9/26) with the series’ top rating since a Nov. 8, 1999 game between Dallas and Minnesota. This marks the first time in the 12-week-old season that an NBC series hasn’t claimed the top spot; “ER” had been No. 1 for nine weeks, “Friends” and “The West Wing” once apiece.

In total viewers, “MNF” also was tops (22.32 million), teaming with three editions of “Millionaire” to give ABC four of the week’s five most-watched shows. Net’s experiment with college students as contestants in three special editions of the quizzer boosted significantly the audience among college-age viewers (18-24), especially men.

It was also a good week for the WB, which once again posted bigger year-to-year gains in key demos than any other net. The Frog’s Sunday comedies did well opposite atypical Christmas Eve programming on the other nets, topping both NBC and CBS among viewers 12-34.

A repeat of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” came in as the week’s No. 1 comedy in viewers (20.14 million), adults 18-49 (7.6/17) and women 18-49 (9.0/21). Fox’s “That ’70s Show” was the top-rated comedy in men 18-49 (7.1/19).

NBC, with its Thursday programs in repeats and its Saturday and Sunday pics flirting with some of the net’s all-time low-water marks, fell to third place in adults 18-49 for the first time since premiere week (when baseball kept many of its top series from bowing). Fox moved up to second, getting solid scores for a pair of “Home Alone” movies.

CBS, whose “Judging Amy” delivered its largest Tuesday audience ever, was derailed on its way to a strong week by low-rated Christmas specs on Saturday and Sunday. The Eye net placed fourth in 18-49 and third in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

Sunday

Christmas Eve festivities lowered the night’s HUT level (Homes Using Television) by 36% compared with the previous week. ABC won the night behind the first VH1 Pop-Up edition of “Millionaire” (10.71m, 3.0/11 in A18-49) and “The Practice” (9.61, 2.9/10).

NBC suffered the most, with a repeat of made-for “Alice in Wonderland” (2.80m, 0.9/4 in A18-49) and the net preem of “Bean” (4.43m, 1.5/5) landing the net deep in fourth.

The WB, with five of its six comedies in repeats, nearly caught the Peacock in 18-49 (1.0/4 vs. 1.2/4). The netlet posted year-to-year gains of 67% in adults 18-34 and a whopping 125% among men 18-34.

Saturday

An encore airing of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” put ABC in first in both viewers (8.6 million) and 18-49 (3.1/10), a slight improvement over the demo showing of the pic’s previous telecast one year earlier (3.0/10).

Fox dominated the night’s first hour with “Cops” but couldn’t keep it going at 9 with a holiday music spec from Miami featuring the likes of Marc Anthony and Tony Bennett; it finished last in both viewers (4.50m) and 18-49 (1.6/5).

CBS didn’t fare a whole lot better with repeats of “Story of Santa Claus” (6.74m, 2.0/7) and “Nuttiest Nutcracker” (6.16m, 1.8/6), while NBC’s “Little Women” produced very small ratings (5.74m, 1.6/5 in A18-49).

Friday

The broadcast premiere of “Home Alone 3″ gave Fox a nightly victory by most measures, including viewers (12.10m) and adults 18-49 (3.9/13). It was the net’s most-watched Friday since January and its best delivery ever on a Friday among teens (7.3/25).

CBS was second in both viewers (10.8 million) and 18-49 (3.3/10), with a firstrun seg of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” ranking as the night’s top show in both categories (14.88m, 4.7/14).

John Stossel news spec “Hype” won out in 18-49 over repeat dramas on NBC and CBS but placed third in its hour in viewers (9.21m).

NBC’s “Dateline” fell to its lowest marks since Sept. 1 (7.96m, 2.4/7).

Thursday

With each of NBC’s series in repeats, ABC moved into the winner’s circle among total viewers. The Alphabet net won five of the night’s six half-hours, including a victory at 8:30 for a repeat “Whose Line Is It Anyway” over a repeat of NBC’s “The Weber Show” (10.82m vs. 10.76m) — the first time the improv show has topped an NBC comedy this season.

The final night of college “Millionaire” delivered a 3.8/13 among adults 18-24, a 52% improvement over the gamer’s Thursday average this season. For the three hours last week, “Millionaire” saw an average improvement of 34% in viewers 18-24, and an even better 39% in men 18-24.

Wednesday

NBC, with each of its dramas in originals, posted its easiest victories of the season in viewers (16.1 million) and 18-49 (6.1/16). Net’s “Ed” was right on the heels of ABC’s “Millionaire” in adults 18-49 (5.0/14 vs. 5.1/14) and moved ahead of the quizzer in adults 25-54 (6.0/15 to 5.7/15).

“Millionaire” remained the night’s most-watched program (19.65m), topping NBC’s “The West Wing” (18.28m) and “Law & Order” (18.20m). “Law” was the week’s top-rated drama in adults 18-49 (6.8/18).

John Stamos starrer “How to Marry a Billionaire,” the first of several planned Fox telepics this season, kept the net in fourth on the night with its second lowest scores of the season (6.77m, 2.8/7 in A18-49).

First of a two-part “Gilmore Girls,” airing on a special night, equaled the WB rookie drama’s best women 18-34 rating of the season (2.9/8).

CBS’ “Bette,” despite facing no comedy competition, fell to its lowest scores of the season (6.83m, 2.5/7 in A18-49).

Tuesday

Airing a repeat “Frasier” for the first time this season, NBC looked very ordinary on the night. The laffer finished 6 shares out of the 18-49 lead — ABC’s firstrun “Dharma & Greg” — and the Peacock’s three other sitcoms fell to their lowest marks of the season.

ABC won the night in viewers (15.0 million) and 18-49 (5.4/14), while Fox prevailed among adults 18-34 (5.2/15). Fox’s “Titus” delivered its best 18-49 rating (5.6/15) since March (its second episode), teaming with “That ’70s Show” (6.5/18) to give the net a victory for the hour.

CBS’ “60 Minutes II,” featuring a Dan Rather interview with President Clinton, drew its largest audience (13.58m) since March. That led in to the most-watched Tuesday episode to date for “Judging Amy” (16.95m), which also hit a new high in women 25-54 (9.0/21).

Monday

“20/20 — Downtown” delivered its largest audience of the season on Dec. 18 (11.45m), pairing with the big “Monday Night Football” score to generate ABC’s best Monday results of the season in viewers (11.5 million) and 18-49 (3.6/10).

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