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CBS combo conquers

Eye's 'Angel,' 'House' strong in Sunday sweep

HOLLYWOOD — For one last time, the combination of “Touched by an Angel” and a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie drew large auds for CBS on a Sunday, as the net dominated overall viewership on the opening Sunday of the May sweep.

“Angel” went out a winner with its series finale, and lead-out pic “A Painted House” became the season’s most-watched movie. Strong showing has enabled CBS to take the May sweeps lead in overall viewership — and it’s not likely to relinquish it before the ratings period wraps May 21.

Fox’s “The Simpsons” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” were the evening’s top draws among young adults, with these nets leading the way in adults 18-49 and 25-54, respectively. ABC ran fourth in most key categories.

According to preliminary Nielsen nationals, the Hallmark presentation of “A Painted House,” based on the John Grisham bestseller, averaged 18.3 million viewers from 9 to 11 and a 4.0/10 in adults 18-49 — making it easily the most-watched movie on any net this season.

In fact, it’s the largest audience for a single-part CBS movie (excluding docu “9/11”) since “Beyond the Prairie” in January 2000. Among “Hallmark Hall of Fame” pics, this is the best tune-in since “A Season for Miracles” in December 1999.

“House,” which led its timeslot among kids, teens and viewers 50-plus, also delivered the best demo score for a CBS made-for since December’s “The Christmas Shoes,” building in young-adult viewers with each half-hour.

The “CBS Sunday Movie,” and the HHOF franchise in particular, had its ratings peak in the late ’90s when it followed “Touched by an Angel.” The most-watched HHOF pic of all time, “What the Deaf Man Heard” (36.8 million), aired in November 1997, when “Angel” topped 26 million.

On Sunday, “Angel” won the 8 o’clock hour in total viewers (prelim 12.7 million) and ran second in adults 25-54 (3.6/9) — its best numbers of the season. Show had been airing on Saturdays for the past two seasons.

Elsewhere Sunday, Fox’s victory in adults 18-49 (4.2/12) was paced by “The Simpsons,” which won in the demo at 8 with an original episode (5.1/15, 11.3 million viewers overall) and did even better at 8:30 with a repeat (5.4/14 in adults 18-49, 12.1 million). At 9, “Malcolm in the Middle” (4.7/12 in A18-49) tied with NBC’s “Law & Order: CI” for the demo lead, but at 9:30, “Oliver Beene” fell off to a 3.7/9.

NBC did well from 9 to 11 with “Law & Order: CI,” as both an original at 9 (5.1/13) and a repeat at 10 (5.3/14) leading the way in adults 18-49.

ABC had a soft night with the original “Wonderful World of Disney” movie “Eloise at the Plaza” (2.5/8 in adults 18-49, 9.8m) and “Alias,” which placed fourth from 9 to 10 (firstrun season low 3.5/9 in A18-49, 7.9m).

Based on prelim Nielsens through Sunday, NBC leads the sweep in adults 18-49 with a 4.6/13. The Eye net leads in total viewers with about 13.3 million.

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