Laffer wins at 8; medics go south vs. 'West'

HOLLYWOOD — ABC continued its early-season success with comedies Wednesday, as the one-hour preem of “My Wife and Kids” was the night’s standout performer, overshadowing a strong finale for CBS’ “Big Brother 3″ and a winning, but surprisingly soft, bow for NBC’s “West Wing.”

The only new program to premiere on Wednesday, ABC’s medical drama “MDs,” didn’t look especially healthy. And among the new shows airing for the second time, Fox’s “Cedric the Entertainer” and “Fastlane” held up pretty well, but UPN’s “Twilight Zone” fell off into another ratings dimension.

According to Nielsen, NBC won the night in both adults 18-49 (5.6/15) and total viewers (15.5 million), although the two-hour preem of “West Wing” (18.16m, 6.7/17 in A18-49) was off by 24% in the demo vs. its official season premiere last year. The White House skein won the Emmy for best drama for a third straight time on Sunday.

At 8, the season preem of NBC’s “Ed” scored a third-place 3.5/10 in adults 18-49 (down 24% from last year) and ran second in adults 25-54.

Beating ‘Bernie’

ABC, whose new Tuesday comedies are faring well after two airings, saw the third-year preem of “My Wife and Kids” dominate from 8 to 9 (14.82m, 6.3/18 in A18-49). It easily topped the second week of the new season for Fox’s “Bernie Mac” head-to-head in 18-49 (5.9/18 vs. 3.8/11) and even beat “Bernie” in its strongest demo of adults 18-34 (5.8/19 vs. 4.5/15), establishing a series high.

“Wife” delivered the best 18-49 rating for an ABC series in the hour since November 2000, the best in adults 18-34 since March 1999, and the largest overall aud since March 2001. Next week, “George Lopez” returns for a second season in the 8:30 slot.

At 10, neither of the competing new San Francisco-set medical dramas — ABC’s “MDs” and CBS’ “Presidio Med” — did much, despite the relative weakness of “West Wing.”

“MDs,” from Touchstone Television, bested “Presidio” in adults 18-49 (3.4/9 vs. 3.1/8), with the Eye drama moving ahead in 25-54 (3.8/9 vs. 3.5/8) and total viewers (8.73m vs. 7.81m). “MDs” was down 24% in 18-49 vs. “20/20″ a year ago, while “Presidio,” which had bowed with a special preview episode on Tuesday, was on par with last season’s “Wolf Lake.”

Losing the Bay

It certainly didn’t help “MDs” or “Presidio” that they failed to generate much interest in the Bay Area. In metered-market overnights, “West Wing’s” 14.6/24 in San Francisco topped the other two dramas combined (8.4/14).

Season finale of “Big Brother 3″ scored big for CBS, winning its 9 p.m. hour among adults 18-34 (5.3/14) and placing second in almost everything else, including adults 18-49 (5.6/14) and total viewers (12.94m).

“BB3″ easily topped the season premiere of ABC’s “The Bachelor” (prelim 9.1m, 4.0/10 in A18-49), which was more of a casting show than a regular episode. Next week, “Bachelor” faces off with CBS’ third edition of “Amazing Race.”

Fox’s “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” again built on its “Bernie Mac” 18-49 lead-in (4.0/12 vs. 3.8/11), and new drama “Fastlane” (4.2/10) also grew on “Cedric’s” rating. Net’s entire Wednesday lineup now will take four weeks off due to Fox’s coverage of postseason baseball.

‘Zoning’ out

At UPN, “Twilight Zone” (3.54m, 1.3/3 in A18-49) retained just 54% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Enterprise (4.84m, 2.4/7) one week after holding 87% with its preem. Its 18-49 rating was off 40% week-to-week.

“Enterprise” was up slightly from last week but down significantly from last season.

The WB aired theatrical “The Blade,” and did an OK 1.8/5 in adults 18-34. Net’s “Dawson’s Creek” returns with a two-hour season opener next week.

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