Retooled ABC drama scores

HOLLYWOOD — ABC’s revamped drama “The Practice” is making a move in the ratings, opening up some distance Sunday on competing legal hour “The Lyon’s Den” on NBC.

“Practice,” which bowed last month with James Spader replacing Dylan McDermott as the lead actor amid other staff changes, averaged a slot-leading 4.4 rating/11 share and 10.8 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s preliminary national averages — its best delivery since last December.

Although “Practice” is off about 25% from where it opened last season (three-week average of 4.0 vs. 5.5 in 18-49), Sunday’s 4.4 rating was down only slightly from its November sweep average (4.6).

Show was moved to Monday in January with disastrous results and returned to its Sunday-at-10 slot this fall following bitter renewal renegotiations. Looking to reignite interest in the skein, creator David E. Kelley penned a season-opening arc around guest thesps Sharon Stone and Chris O’Donnell, both of whom appeared Sunday.

Like “The Practice,” NBC’s “The Lyon’s Den” benefited from baseball not being in the primetime mix Sunday, inching up a bit week-to-week (3.4/9 in adults 18-49, 10 million viewers) and placing second. Show retained roughly the same percentage of its “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” lead-in (first-place 4.7/12 in adults 18-49, 14 million viewers) as last season’s “Boomtown” in the same time period.

The 8 o’clock drama battle was again competitive, with NBC’s “American Dreams” expected to prevail in 18-49 (prelim 3.0/8) and CBS’ “Cold Case” in 25-54 and total viewers. (Numbers for “Cold Case” are iffy as a NFL overrun pushed back the drama’s start in much of the country.)

WB charms adults

The WB’s “Charmed” was the top drama choice among adults 18-34, while ABC’s “10-8″ should come in a tick or two out of the hour’s 18-49 lead.

CBS, with its combo of “60 Minutes” and “Cold Case,” led from 7:30 to 8:30 in 18-49 and total viewers, but original movie “Footsteps” struggled in closing out the evening (roughly 1.9/5 in 18-49, 9 million viewers).

Fox’s last-minute movie sub “Varsity Blues” didn’t do much from 8 to 10 (2.5/6 in 18-49, 5.9 million viewers).

ABC and NBC were in a virtual tie for the night’s 18-49 lead, with CBS on top in total viewers.

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