‘Whoopi’-ing it up

ABC laffer surges despite baseball audiences

HOLLYWOOD — Against the backdrop of more big baseball ratings Tuesday night on Fox, NBC’s first-year comedy “Whoopi” impressed with best-since-premiere numbers.

“Whoopi,” which had performed respectably in recent weeks opposite exceptional competition posed by ABC’s “8 Simple Rules,” shot up sharply week-to-week when “Rules” went into repeats. It led all nonsports programs in its timeslot.

NBC’s new “Happy Family” also looked solid, while the WB’s slow-starting combo of “Gilmore Girls” and “One Tree Hill” inched up again to more season highs.

Tuesday’s “Whoopi” featured a fictitious meeting between Whoopi Goldberg’s outspoken Mavis character and President Bush. NBC will rebroadcast the episode tonight at 9:30 in place of “Coupling.”

Demo delivery

For its 8 o’clock half-hour, “Whoopi” (10.56 million viewers overall) trailed only Fox’s baseball in adults 18-49 (4.0/12), jumping 43% from last week’s 2.8/8 and edging out “8 Simple Rules” (3.8/11, above-average for a repeat).

NBC hasn’t done better with a regular in-season program in the timeslot since the series finale of “3rd Rock From the Sun” in May 2001.

At 8:30, fellow rookie laffer “Happy Family” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 9.24m) took advantage of its stronger lead-in to top ABC’s “I’m With Her” (3.4/9 in 18-49, 8.47m) for the first time.

The 9 o’clock comedy battle was a dead heat among 18-49, with NBC’s “Frasier” (4.5/11) matching ABC’s “According to Jim” and the Peacock’s “Good Morning Miami” tying the Alphabet’s “Less Than Perfect” (3.7/9).

NBC, which was a solid second to Fox on the night in 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34, closed things out with a powerful perf from “Law & Order: SVU” (5.1/13 in 18-49, 12.65m), which sent CBS’ “Judging Amy” (2.5/6, 11.02m) to a firstrun series low.

Swinging away

The Chicago Cubs-Florida Marlins baseball game on Fox, meanwhile, dominated the night overall with the best numbers for a postseason contest this fall (6.8/19 in 18-49, 19.36m) and the best for any League Championship Series contest since 1999 (Game 6 of N.Y. Mets-Atlanta Braves).

The WB took more steps in the right direction with season highs again for “Gilmore Girls” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 5.40m) and “One Tree Hill” (1.5/4, 3.78m). “Gilmore” led at 8 in women 18-34 (4.3/13) and “Hill” led at 9 in teens (3.2/11) and was the night’s top-rated show in female teens (4.2/14).

On the cable side, Spike’s “Joe Schmo” hit another series high in men 18-49 — up 17% week-to-week (742,000 viewers) and a 75% improvement from its premiere in September.

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