Fox wins second straight night

The final appearance of Robert Downey Jr. on “Ally McBeal” boosted that series Monday to its best ratings since February, helping Fox win easily in key demos for a second straight night.

According to Nielsen, “Ally” topped CBS’ second-place comedies by a combined 2 shares in adults 18-49 (6.8/17 vs. 6.0/15) and gave the series rare year-to-year ratings growth. It teamed with a timeslot victory in adults 18-49 for “Boston Public” (4.9/14) to give Fox the night by 3 shares in the key demo and help pull the net into a second-place tie for the May sweep.

Through Monday (19 nights of the four-week sweep), NBC remains comfortably ahead in adults 18-49 with a 4.8 rating/14 share (down 9% in rating vs. a year ago), followed by CBS, 4.2/12 (up 24%), which is tied with Fox, 4.2/12 (up 5%); ABC, 3.9/11 (down 28%); and the WB, 1.6/5 (up 14%), tied with UPN, 1.6/5 (down 6%).

CBS, which took Monday in total viewers, remains well ahead of the May sweeps pack with an average of 13.20 million (up 13% vs. a year ago), followed by NBC, 11.48m (down 6%); ABC, 10.74m (down 29%); Fox, 8.62m (up 5%); UPN, 3.72m (down 10%); and the WB, 3.57m (up 7%).

The Eye’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” was the night’s most-watched program (17.22m), while the net’s “Family Law” rallied to its best ratings in eight weeks (10.82m, 3.8/10 in A18-49) but remained mired in third place.

NBC hopped over CBS to take second place in adults 18-49 (4.7/13 vs. 4.6/12). Quizzer “Weakest Link” finished a solid second (4.6/13), “Dateline” nabbed its best score in 11 weeks (4.5/11) and “Third Watch” (5.1/14) matched its best share since premiere week.

Elsewhere Monday, ABC grabbed its second best movie numbers in 12 weeks with a repeat of “Con Air” (10.36m, 4.5/12). Pic put ABC in first on the night in all adult male demos and captured its final hour by nearly every measure.

The WB’s “7th Heaven” (7.27m, 3.0/9 in A18-49) drew big numbers with the first of a two-part season finale, taking its hour among females 12-34 and grabbing a boffo 26 share in female teens.

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