'Jim,' 'Perfect' follow in post-Ritter episode's wake

ABC comedy “8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter” returned to the airwaves Tuesday and drew more than 20 million viewers. The hourlong episode was the first to incorporate the death of lead actor John Ritter into the show.

According to Nielsen, from 8 to 9, “8 Simple Rules” (8.1/21 in adults 18-49, 20.51 million viewers overall) dominated in all ratings categories with series-high scores. Its previous highs were established four weeks earlier with the last of three episodes taped by Ritter prior to his death in September.

The comedies that followed, “According to Jim” (6.0/15 in 18-49, 14.78m) and “Less Than Perfect” (4.7/12 in 18-49, 11.00m), also led their slots in 18-49 and matched or set some series highs.

NBC ran a strong second to ABC for the night among adults 18-49, paced by the best results since April for 10 o’clock drama “Law & Order: SVU” (5.5/15 in 18-49, 13.08m), which topped in all key demos its drama rivals “NYPD Blue” on ABC (3.8/10 in 18-49, 10.67m) and “Judging Amy” on CBS (3.3/9 in 18-49, 13.36m).

The Peacock also was solid from 8 to 10 with a 90-minute “Fear Factor” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 11.07m) and “Frasier” at 9:30 (4.3/11 in adults 18-49, 10.21m).

CBS was paced by “Judging Amy’s” season-high scores at 10, as the skein’s 100th seg (the “wedding episode,” although no one got hitched) won its hour in total viewers with the show’s largest aud since April.

Fox’s “24” finished third for the 9 o’clock hour in adults 18-49 (3.7/9, 8.6 million viewers overall), off 21% from its commercial-free season premiere of a week earlier.

The WB’s rookie drama “One Tree Hill” (1.4/3 in 18-49, 3.62m), picked up for the entire season on Wednesday, hit new highs in femmes 12-34 (3.6/10) and persons 12-34 (2.4/7), retaining 100% of its “Gilmore Girls” lead-in in the latter.

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