Chalk one up at Fox

'Boston' bow tops hour, boosts 'Ally' return

The Fox high school drama “Boston Public” went to the head of the ratings class in its first outing Monday, winning its hour by all key measures.

Latest skein from David E. Kelley checked in before 13.92 million viewers, according to Nielsen — Fox’s largest audience in the hour with series programming since February 1996 (“Melrose Place”). It also helped lead-out “Ally McBeal” draw its biggest crowd since March, although the Calista Flockhart series was down considerably from its premiere last season.

Fox won the night in adults 18-49 (6.5/16), ABC in viewers (16.4 million).

“Boston Public” nabbed a winning 6.2/16 in adults 18-49, a 6.8/17 in 25-54 and a 5.9/17 in 18-34. It joins CBS Monday laffer “Yes, Dear” as the only new programs to win their timeslots in viewers and all male and female adult demos in their first try.

Its initial outing is a big improvement for Fox over short-lived drama “Time of Your Life,” which bowed in the Monday hour a year ago (7.9 million, 3.9/11 in A18-49).

“Boston” also delivered a broader audience than most Fox shows (tying for the lead in its second half-hour in teens and winning in men 50-plus), indicating that all those promos during the World Series paid off. Even some of Fox’s biggest hits aren’t consistent winners in the older adult breakdowns like 25-54 and 50-plus.

Fox’s performance cut into CBS’ audience — with its comedy hour of “King of Queens” (13.71m, 5.1/14 in A18-49) and “Yes, Dear” (13.23m, 5.3/13) slipping to second — and reduced NBC comedies “Daddio” and “Tucker” to chalk dust. The Peacock pair Tuesday became the first cancelations of the young season.

Surprisingly, “Boston’s” only drama competition — the WB’s “7th Heaven” — actually gained week-to-week. The family series drew its largest audience (8.10 million) since January and its best ratings since March 1999 in adults 18-34 (3.2/9) and men 18-49 (2.1/6).

As for “Ally McBeal,” its fourth-season premiere, featuring Robert Downey Jr., averaged 13.23 million viewers and an 18-49 score of 6.9/16, down 17% and 24%, respectively, from last season’s opener.

Fox and series creator Kelley both admitted that the series, which took a big drop in the ratings the second half of last season, had veered off track. They looked at Monday’s season premiere as the first chance to win back some of its core audience.

CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the Monday series whose ratings rise last season coincided with “Ally’s” fall, won its first head-to-head battle in adults 18-49 (7.0/16 to 6.6/15) and also bested “Monday Night Football” (6.8/17). “Ally” did top the Eye’s “Becker” at 9:30 (7.1/16 to 5.8/13), placing second to “MNF.”

Meanwhile, the longest game in “Monday Night Football” history (four hours, five minutes) — two nights after the longest game in World Series history — delivered subpar ratings (16.42m, 7.4/20 in A18-49) but did top the night’s programs in adults 18-49 and all male demos.

Contest was a yawner until the fourth quarter, when the New York Jets delivered a tremendous rally before going on to win in overtime. By that time, though, many viewers had already bailed out.

The game was so long that Monday’s CBS and NBC 9-11 p.m. programming aired opposite “MNF” on both coasts.

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