Auds walk from talk during Games

'Sally' scores a season high

The Winter Olympics put the freeze on syndies during the February sweeps.

The top nine yakkers posted perfs down from a year earlier, as viewers skated over to catch MSNBC’s competing daytime coverage of the Games.

Talk leader “Oprah,” posting a 5.8 Nielsen household score, slipped 12% from February 2001.

Others recording double-digit drops include “The Jerry Springer Show” (2.9, down 24%), “The Montel Wil-liams Show” (2.8, down 20%), “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” (2.4, down 23%), “Ricki” (1.9, down 27%) and “The Jenny Jones Show” (1.9, down 17%).

“Everyone is going to take the Olympics into account,” said Katz TV’s Bill Carroll, who believes the Games will become “the explanation or the excuse” execs use for their shows’ slew of bad perfs.

Season high for ‘Sally’

In warmer news, however, “Sally” (1.7, down 29%) scored a season high 2.0 during that last week of the month — the show’s final winter sweeps period.

The Olympics left nearly all the court and game strips in the dust, including the top three gavelers: “Judge Judy” (5.9, down 8%), “Judge Joe Brown” (3.6, down 8%) and “Divorce Court” (2.9, down 6%).

It was the same story with the top gamers, “Wheel of Fortune” (10.1, down 8%), “Jeopardy!” (8.5, down 7%) and “Hollywood Squares” (2.8, down 28%).

Off-nets looked healthier. Likely helping “Friends” (7.5, up 21%) is a just-added TBS cable window. Boost-ing “Seinfeld” (6.7, up 26%) is the fact that it’s getting double-run for the first time this season.

‘Justice’ improves

The rookies, who can’t yet compare February sweeps periods, had an overall better time of it. Several im-proved from their debuts, including top rookie “Texas Justice” (2.1, up 5% from its January start).

Impressive gainers were dating strips “ElimiDate” (1.6) and “The Fifth Wheel” (1.5), jumping 60% and 50%, respectively, from their fall preems. On-the-bubble, “The Other Half” (1.2, up 20%) also picked up the pace.

“Crossing Over With John Edward” (1.9, down 10%) and “Weakest Link” (1.7, down 6%) have fallen from their debuts.

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