With viewers sparked, Fox ties ABC in top demo

“Ally McBeal,” featuring Robert Downey Jr. in a prominent storyline, surged Monday to some of its best ratings in eight months.

The Fox series, which is down sharply in ratings compared with a year ago, won its hour in adults 18-49 for the first time this season (7.2/16) with its best showing in the demo and largest audience overall (14.03 million) since March.

Viewer interest was no doubt sparked by Downey, who was released on bail Sunday following an arrest for drug possession and probation violation. The actor had a recurring role on the series as a love interest for lead Calista Flockhart and was scheduled for one or two more appearances at a later date.

“We certainly hope he’ll be part of (the show), and if he is that will be wonderful,” Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said in a telephone news conference Tuesday to discuss the net’s sweeps performance. “We certainly have our wishes and prayers with him, but we have a television show to produce.”

Meanwhile, Downey was back on the “Ally” set Tuesday, according to the actor’s publicist, Alan Nierob.

A good night

It was a good night overall for Fox, which tied “Monday Night Football”-led ABC for the lead among adults 18-49 (6.3/15). “Ally” lead-in “Boston Public” (12.57m, 5.4/14) delivered its best numbers in four weeks and won in many demos.

NBC snapped to a strong second in adults 18-49 in the 8 o’clock hour thanks to a “Crocodile Hunter” spec, in conjunction with Animal Planet. The special’s 5.2/13 rating is the best in-season score in the hour for NBC since November 1998.

Peacock’s “Third Watch” also posted its best ratings in six weeks (13.18m, 5.1/13 in A18-49).

CBS ranked third in 18-49 (5.2/12) and second in viewers (14.1m) with its weakest marks of the season. Net’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” however, remained the night’s top show in both 18-49 (7.3/16) and viewers (19.29m).

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