'Fugitive' unspectacular given big promo push

CBS’ revamped Friday and Saturday lineups got off to a strong start over the weekend, with “C.S.I.” and “The District” looking especially potent.

Expensive Eye rookie “The Fugitive” also did solid numbers, though its perf was surprisingly unspectacular given the enormous promotional push CBS gave the remake from exec producers John McNamara and Arnold & Anne Kopelson.

Meanwhile, viewers didn’t make a strong connection with Fox’s “Freakylinks,” and ABC’s new Friday comedies were hit-and-miss out of the box, with “Madigan Men” impressing but “People Who Fear People” struggling.

Against atypical competition on both Friday and Saturday due to baseball playoffs, the Eye won all 12 half-hours in women 25-54 and all but one in adults 25-54, according to prelim nationals from Nielsen. Compared with premiere nights a year ago (when baseball didn’t air), CBS was up in both adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

In a bit of a surprise, CBS’ Friday lineup — rookies “The Fugitive” and “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation” and vet “Nash Bridges” — were more of a hit with its core 25-54 aud than with the 18-34 set, which had been blitzed with promo spots for the three dramas during “Survivor” and “Big Brother.”

While the net was up vs. premiere Friday last season by a strong 44% in adults 25-54 and by 24% in adults 18-49, it was actually down by 10% in adults 18-34. (The 8-10 p.m. hours last season featured “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” “Candid Camera” and “Now and Again”).

‘CSI’ takes off

Exec produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Ann Donahue and Carol Mendelsohn, “C.S.I.” (prelim 17.0 million, 5.4/17 in A18-49) was the story of the night, building on its “Fugitive” lead-in by 54% in adults 18-49 and by 52% in adults 25-54. The crime series delivered the Eye’s best 25-54 rating in the 9 p.m. Friday hour (7.6/21) since September 1992 (“Designing Women”/”Bob”).

If they hold up, those numbers will sting execs over at ABC/Touchstone, which developed the actioner but dropped out as a production partner over the summer due to concerns about the show’s potential for profitability.

Compared with CBS dramas of last season, “C.S.I.’s” 5.4 rating in adults 18-49 tops every episode of all Eye dramas except the second seg of “Family Law,” which also nabbed a 5.4.

That helped 10 p.m.’s “Nash Bridges” post timeslot-winning scores of 14.3 million viewers, a 5.1/16 in adults 18-49 and a 6.8/18 in adults 25-54 — its best score in the latter demo since April 1996.

At 8, the costly, oft-promoted Warner Bros. series “The Fugitive” easily won its hour in viewers (prelim 13.0 million) and topped second-place Fox’s “Police Videos” by 2 shares in adults 25-54. “Fugitive” built on last season’s opening Friday by 40% in adults 18-49 and by 67% in adults 25-54 .

‘Fugitive’ succeeds

In homes, the Tim Daly starrer posted the net’s best score with series on Fridays at 8 (9.2/17) since April 1993 (“Golden Palace”/”Dudley”).

“Videos,” though, looked tough in adults 18-49 (4.1/14), winning in the demo by 2 shares over “Fugitive” (3.5/12). It also was an easy winner its hour in adults 18-34 (4.0/17).

Socko perf once again demonstrates why it’s been so hard for Fox to kick the reality monkey, and if it holds up, may make it tough for Fox to put scripted drama back in the slot. Horror anthology “Night Visions” had been slated to air on Fridays, but was pushed to midseason in favor of “Videos.”

At 9, “Freakylinks” turned in a mix performance. Warner Bros.-produced skein, from the creators of “The Blair Witch Project,” won the hour in adults 18-34 (prelim 3.4/13), but saw its adults 18-49 and homes ratings fall off in the second half-hour. Still, the numbers were much better than what Fox averaged a year ago with “Harsh Realm,” particularly opposite tougher-than-expected competish from “C.S.I.”

Over at ABC, the net’s revamped Friday was off to a rocky, though far from disastrous, start.

While showing significant losses in total viewers, Alphabet virtually maintained its year-ago premiere numbers in adults 18-49 (prelim 3.6 vs. last year’s 3.7).

‘Men’ looks good

Best perfs came from the ATG/Touchstone rookie laffer “Madigan Men,” whose 3.6/11 in adults 18-49 is the best for any ABC series in the 9:30 half-hour since March. The Gabriel Byrne starrer built on its “Norm” lead-in by 13% in both viewers (8.5m vs. 7.5m) and 18-49 (3.6/11 vs. 3.2/10).

At 8:30, though, Paramount’s “The Trouble with Normal” (6.7m, 2.7/9 in A18-49) appears in immediate trouble — down 15% in viewers and by 21% in the demo from its fairly strong “Two Guys and a Girl” lead-in (7.9m, 3.4/12).

ABC felt the loss of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” in a big way, however. None of its new laffers came close to matching last season’s premiere seg of the supernatural comedy; indeed, “Norm” was down more than 30% in the same 9 p.m. slot vs. what “Witch” earned a year ago.

Industry insiders are already speculating ABC may try to consolidate its 2-hour laff block to a single hour, perhaps adding a fifth hour of “Millionaire” or another non-fiction skein.

At 10 p.m., the season premiere of “20/20,” which featured a Barbara Walters exclusive on new secrets surrounding Princess Diana, finished second in viewers and adults 18-49, but ahead of last year’s premiere.

‘District’ hits

On Saturday, the Studios USA/CBS Prods. series “The District” delivered the Eye’s best adults 25-54 score with series in the 10 p.m. hour (5.8/15) in nearly two years. The Craig T. Nelson starrer built on its “Walker, Texas Ranger” lead-in by 35% in adults 25-54 and by a hefty 57% in men 18-49.

“The District” may have picked up some male viewers from Fox’s Mets-Giants baseball game, a marathon contest that wrapped at about 9:30 p.m. ET.

CBS’ “That’s Life” — airing for the first time in its Saturday at 8 slot –figured to benefit from a pair of baseball games on NBC and Fox. “Life” (prelim 9.0m, 3.2/11 in A18-49) improved by 19% in adults 18-49 and by 37% in women 18-49 vs. last season’s “Early Edition” premiere.

Overall, CBS won Friday by 7 shares in homes and by 3 shares in adults 18-49. ABC, with a third run of “Ransom,” won Saturday in adults 18-49 (prelim 3.9/12), while CBS won in homes by 2 shares over ABC.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more