Letterman shows draw praise, big auds

'Late Show' edges out Leno in adults 18-49, 18-34

NEW YORK — Many commentators called David Letterman’s latenight CBS shows for the five days beginning Sept. 17, his first appearances following the terrorist destruction of World Trade Center, the finest week of the comedian’s broadcasting career.

Not surprisingly, “The Late Show” saw its highest week of ratings since Feb. 21, 2000.

NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno,” which ran only four nights during the week (Sept. 18-21), still won the household-ratings sweepstakes with a 5.0 rating (6.63 million viewers) compared to Letterman’s 4.5 (6.17 million homes).

But in a rare occurrence, Letterman edged out Leno in adults 18-49 (2.6 vs. 2.5) and 18-34 (2.2 vs. 2.0).

“Nightline,” the ABC News show hosted by Ted Koppel, ran for an hour each night during the week instead of the usual half-hour, starting at 11:35, and finished second in households, with a 4.7 rating (6.37-million households). But it wound up third among adults 18-49 with a 2.4 rating and among 18-34 with a 1.6 rating.

Although slotted a half-hour later than usual, “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher” scored its largest audience and best adults 18-49 average in six months. That was the week that Maher’s controversial remarks caused at least two advertisers to kill their spots and some ABC affiliates to pull the show off the air.

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