‘Friends,’ ‘Law’ trio boost NBC

Peacock tops Eye by 20% in adult demo

A still-sizzling “Friends” and the seemingly unstoppable “Law & Order” franchise have lifted NBC to its third straight ratings victory to start the season.

According to Nielsen, the Peacock won by every key breakdown once again during the week of Oct. 8-14, claiming seven of the 10 most-watched shows (CBS had the other three). “Friends,” which easily topped the return of CBS’ “Survivor” in their head-to-head showdown Thursday, ranked as the week’s top show in total viewers and all adult demos.

NBC topped second-place CBS by 20% in adults 18-49 and by 2% in total viewers. ABC was third in both, while Fox — with baseball still keeping it from rolling out its entire lineup — remained fourth.

All three of NBC’s “Law & Order” series won their hours in total viewers, with both Friday’s “Special Victims Unit” and Sunday’s “Criminal Intent” drawing their largest auds to date and Wednesday’s flagship edition, grabbing the second largest in its 12 seasons.

“Survivor: Africa,” which ranked as the week’s No. 2 show in total viewers (23.84m) and No. 4 in adults 18-49 (10.4/23), boosted CBS to its strongest week since early May. Eye net has its share of problems — primarily some weak-performing dramas — but still claimed five nights in total viewers (losing only to NBC’s dominant Wednesday and Friday).

Tuesday’s “The Guardian” ranks as the season’s most-watched new drama through three weeks (averaging 14.8 million), giving CBS the top new drama in each of the past three years (following “Judging Amy” and “CSI”).

ABC is achieving its goal of returning to a younger audience profile — again ranking as the youngest-skewing of the Big Three for the week — but continues to struggle overall, especially on Tuesdays. Net has enjoyed success with some new shows, as drama “Alias” and laffer “According to Jim” rank among the top five rookie programs in young-adult demos.

Fox has yet to bow its strong Sunday and Monday lineups, but is faring well on Tuesdays with “Undeclared” (season’s No. 2 new comedy in adults 18-34, behind NBC’s “Inside Schwartz”) and on Friday with sophomore drama “Dark Angel,” which has grown every week and is winning in key demos. Net’s baseball playoffs coverage also is up year-to-year.

UPN, with big year-to-year gains on Tuesday (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Wednesday (“Enterprise”), again topped weblet rival the WB. “Enterprise” is the season’s No. 1 new drama in adults 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34, while new Monday laffer “One on One” also is doing well, sparking that night to gains.

The WB was basically flat vs. a year ago, with strong perfs from “7th Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls” and new Friday laffers “Reba” and “Raising Dad.” Frog net is having a tougher time on Sunday with its new male-oriented laffers and on Thursday with new reality skein “Elimidate Deluxe.”

The week’s top cable programs, ESPN’s “Sunday Night NFL” (7.92m) and HBO’s “Band of Brothers” (6.43m), ranked 62nd and 76th among all primetime shows.

Monday

CBS won Oct. 15 by all key measures — including adults 18-34 — as comedies “King of Queens,” “Yes, Dear” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” hit series highs in the younger demo and “Yes, Dear” also drew its largest aud ever (15.72m).

“Raymond,” airing 50 years to the minute after “I Love Lucy” premiered on the net (Monday, 9 p.m., Oct. 15, 1951), grabbed the strongest demo score for CBS in the half-hour since “Murphy Brown” in 1993.

ABC at least got a close game for its unattractive Washington-Dallas NFL matchup, helping “Monday Night Football” (14.73m, 6.0/16 in 18-49) avoid record-low ratings. Football topped Fox’s competing baseball game, the deciding game in the opening-round Athletics-Yankees series (11.67m, 4.5/12); it’s the largest turnout for an opening-round game since the playoff format changed five years ago.

NBC did OK with its two-hour “Third Watch” spec (9.71m, 4.5/12), growing throughout the night. “Crossing Jordan” continued to look strong at 10 (12.47m, 4.8/12).

The WB’s “7th Heaven” hit new season highs in viewers (9.28m), 18-49 (3.4/9) and other demos.

Sunday

New dramas “Law & Order: CI,” “UC: Undercover” and “Alias” all improved opposite Fox’s baseball, but CBS’ “Education of Max Bickford” faded (Daily Variety, Oct. 16).

“Surviving Gilligan’s Island” (13.03m, 5.9/13) improved in nationals and now ranks as CBS’ strongest-performing movie in 18-49 since “Beyond the Prairie” in January 2000. It’s also the highest-rated movie in the demo on any net (made-for or theatrical) since ABC’s “Amy & Isabelle” in March.

The WB’s “Men, Women and Dogs” (2.94m, 1.3/2 in 18-49), sandwiched between “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Nikki,” got off to an OK start, but 9:30 laffer “Off Centre” (2.21m, 1.0/2) already appears to be in trouble.

Saturday

CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” (10.29m, 2.6/8 in 18-49) hit a season high, winning its hour in key demos once again and delivering the net’s largest aud in the hour with series since March 2000 (“Early Edition”).

ABC won the night in 18-49 with a repeat movie, this time “Apollo 13” (3.0/9). NBC also did well in demos with “Happy Gilmore” from 9 to 11 (3.2/9 in 18-49, 3.3/12 in 18-34).

Friday

NBC remained well ahead of the pack, but Fox had a strong night as well: “Dark Angel” hit season highs (7.62m, 3.4/11) and again won its hour in key demos, while a special “America’s Most Wanted” edition on terrorism matched Fox’s best 18-49 series score in the hour (2.9/9) since February (“Police Videos”).

ABC fell behind CBS in 18-49 on the night for the first time this season, with “Thieves” (2.5/7) and “Once and Again” (2.3/7) falling to new lows.

CBS, with “The Ellen Show” hitting a Friday high in 18-49 (2.4/8) and a repeat of “Yes, Dear” (2.3/7) filling in for the canceled “Danny,” grabbed its best demo score with series in the night’s opening hour since January (“The Fugitive”). “That’s Life” (6.77m, 2.2/6 in 18-49) and “48 Hours” (8.67m, 2.6/8) both were up week-to-week.

In week 2, the WB’s comedies were down 19% in 18-49 (1.3 vs. 1.6) but continued to post year-to-year growth for the web, including 44% in 18-49. “Reba” (4.21m, 1.6/5 in 18-49) led the way, winning in women 12-34 (2.6/9), but “Raising Dad” (3.53m, 1.4/4 in 18-49) also looks good.

Thursday

President Bush’s news conference averaged 64.81 million viewers on the major webs and three cablers, leading in to strong perfs for both “Friends” and “Survivor: Africa,” which began about 45 minutes late in most of the country (Daily Variety, Oct. 15).

Frog’s “Elimidate Deluxe,” despite facing no entertainment competish on the Big Four, posted minuscule premiere numbers (2.00m, 0.9/2 in 18-49).

Wednesday

NBC rolled to victory behind the season preems of “Ed” (12.28m, 4.6/12 in 18-49) and “The West Wing” (23.65m, 8.8/21) and a big “Law & Order” (22.07m, 8.4/22).

In its second week, “According to Jim” (4.7/12 in 18-49) again improved upon its “My Wife and Kids” lead-in (4.4/13), giving ABC a strong opening-hour comedy block.

Tuesday

CBS took the night in adults 25-54 for the first time in nearly a year, while ABC’s lineup continued to implode, with the since-canceled “What About Joan?” and “Bob Patterson” especially weak in the middle of the net’s comedy block (Daily Variety, Oct. 11).

Monday

“Monday Night Football” lifted ABC to victory in 18-49 on Oct. 8, while CBS inched ahead in total viewers (Daily Variety, Oct. 10).

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