‘Guardian’ bow, ‘JAG’ put sparkle in the Eye

CBS takes night in total viewers with largest turnout since May 1999

CBS was easily the most-watched network on the first Tuesday of the season behind huge numbers for “JAG” and a very strong debut for drama “The Guardian,” the most impressive of the night’s four rookies.

Another high-profile newbie — NBC’s critically despised laffer “Emeril”– bowed to numbers that screamed “bomb!” rather than his trademark yelp, “bam!”

As for “The Guardian,” skein didn’t produce the young-adult demos of other shows on the night, but its 4.2/10 in adults 18-49, 5.5/12 in 25-54 and 15.52 million viewers overall tops every episode of “60 Minutes II” to air in the 9 o’clock hour over the past two seasons, according to Nielsen.

The drama, starring Simon Baker as a young lawyer caught between two worlds, also seemed to make for a better flow between the net’s 8 o’clock drama “JAG” and 10 o’clock drama “Judging Amy,” both of which topped their hours in total viewers and women 25-54, among other categories.

“We wanted to draw a direct line from ‘JAG’ at 8 to ‘Judging Amy’ at 10,” said CBS Television topper Leslie Moonves, referring to the Eye’s two hit returning dramas. “And ‘The Guardian’ filled that gap. We’re extremely pleased with how our Tuesday schedule is shaping up.”

More rookies bow

Two other rookies bowing Tuesday, Fox comedy “Undeclared” and ABC drama “Philly,” earned solid but underwhelming ratings. “Emeril,” meanwhile, finished deep in fourth and may be cooked already. Night also saw more gaudy preem numbers for NBC’s “Frasier” and tame totals for Fox’s short-run “Love Cruise.”

Overall, CBS captured the night in total viewers with its largest Tuesday turnout (16.3 million viewers) since May 1999. NBC, despite serious problems in the opening hour, edged out ABC to win in adults 18-49 (5.8/15 to 5.6/14), while the Big Three finished within 1 share of each other in adults 25-54, with NBC winning.

Fox continued its mastery of the more narrow adults 18-34 and teen demos despite a subpar showing at 9.

Year-to-year comparisons are tricky across the board, as the opening Tuesdays of last season included pre-emptions for baseball and presidential debates. This year’s Tuesday opener was more traditional but included some stunting — and key programs like UPN’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Fox’s “24” have yet to bow.

Fox’s “Undeclared,” perhaps the most critically acclaimed new laffer of the season, finished third in its 8:30 half-hour in adults 18-49 (5.1/13). It retained 89% of its first-place lead-in from “That ’70s Show” (5.7/16) — about on par with what “Titus” did in the slot last season but unspectacular for a premiere in this slot.

Men watching

The college-campus comedy won in adults 18-34 (6.5/18) but had a decidedly male slant: It matched ” ’70s Show” in men (7.6 rating) but lost 24% of its lead-in from women (to 5.4/14).

Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman said he thought “Undeclared” might improve next week against weaker competition.

“The way I look at it, we’re the network that, in a way, has the most to gain next week,” Beckman said. “We’re hoping the planets will align next Tuesday. We’ll live to fight another day on this night.”

To be sure, Fox will rebroadcast the series premiere of “Undeclared” on Wednesday after a repeat “Simpsons.”

In other rebroadcast news, Fox also opted to quickly repeat Monday’s “Who Wants to be a Princess” tonight at 8 to take advantage of word of mouth that has swirled following the low-rated special’s telecast.

ABC’s Steven Bochco series “Philly” (13.62m, 5.3/14 in A18-49) bowed in the 10 o’clock hour with numbers that were better than what “Once and Again” earned in the first half of the season, but less than what “NYPD Blue” did in the second half.

Kim Delaney starrer tailed off in its second half-hour but still won in adults 25-54 and male demos while finishing second to NBC’s “Dateline” in 18-49.

‘Emeril’ not cooking

NBC’s “Emeril,” starring Emeril Lagasse as himself, landed fourth at 8 p.m. (8.73m, 3.5/10), falling 40% behind the premiere for “The Michael Richards Show” a year ago. “Richards” made a quick exit from the sked, and the night’s leadoff hour remains the weakest link on NBC’s sked.

“I wanted it to do a little better, but it doesn’t need to be sent back to the kitchen,” said NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker. “Next week’s number is going to be key.”

Peacock insiders noted that NBC was averaging in the mid-2s demo-wise last spring, and that even a 3.0 average adult 18-49 number for “Emeril” would be something of a moral triumph for the show.

Also bowing Tuesday was Fox’s reality series “Love Cruise,” which finished fourth at 9 in viewers (6.35m) and adults 18-49 (3.6/8). Show is a victim of recent schedule switches, as it was intended to bow two weeks earlier and away from the premiere-night fray.

It may also be a harbinger of bad things to come for the reality genre, with many industry insiders now openly questioning whether the genre may suddenly seem out of step with viewers following the events of Sept. 11.

NBC’s one-hour “Frasier” (prelim 19.2m, 8.2/19 in A18-49) earned the top scores of the night, although it was down considerably from last year’s preem. It fended off tough competish in the hour, which included the one-hour opener of ABC’s “Spin City” (13.38m, 6.5/15 in A18-49), featuring the return of Michael J. Fox; “Spin’s” demo score is the net’s best at 9 on Tuesday since last October’s premiere night.

ABC, which overall delivered its best 18-49 rating on a Tuesday since March, also saw the one-hour preem of “Dharma & Greg” do well in its new 8 o’clock timeslot (12.08m, 5.0/14 in A18-49). It tied “JAG” for second in 18-49, behind Fox’s comedies.

“JAG” delivered its second largest aud in its six seasons on CBS (17.81m) and its best-ever score in adults 25-54 (6.7/16), winning its hour by 3 shares.

(Josef Adalian and Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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