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Triple play for Fox

Eye still has most eyes, Oprah pic aids ABC

Three nights of “American Idol” proved too much for the competish last week as Fox continued its second-half rally with a sixth consecutive demo victory.

CBS remained on top in total viewers, and ABC had a solid week capped by huge numbers for Oprah Winfrey-produced telepic “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” but “Idol”-powered Fox was tough to catch. The Murdoch net has moved into the season lead in adults 18-49, edging past CBS, according to Nielsen.

“American Idol” claimed the week’s top three programs for the week in 18-49, with Tuesday leading the way as usual (11.0 rating/28 share in 18-49, 26.9 million viewers overall). Wednesday’s pared-down, 30-minute results show placed second in the demo (10.3/25), followed by Monday’s special hourlong seg (10.1/24).

Packed in

Overall, Fox’s 4.4/12 average for the week in 18-49 was 2 shares better than ABC (3.9/10), CBS (3.7/10) and NBC (3.7/10), which were closely bunched in a battle for second. Fox scored a narrow victory in adults 25-54 (4.6/11) and won easily in persons 12-34 (4.0/12), while CBS notched its 20th victory in 24 weeks this season in total viewers (11.7 million).

And for the season in 18-49, Fox (4.04 rating) has moved ahead of CBS (4.01) for the first time, according to Nielsen. The Eye, though, still has a solid lead when only regular programs are counted.

The week of Feb. 28-March 6 also saw ABC’s “NYPD Blue” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 16.08m) sail off into the sunset a winner, and the same net’s Sunday pic, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” draw the best numbers for a scripted telepic in several years (8.6/21 in 18-49, 24.59m).

‘Race’ ahead

On the reality side, CBS’ “Amazing Race” kicked off its seventh season with solid ratings (4.9/12, 11.76m) and UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model” (2.2/6, 5.08m) looked good in its fourth-cycle opener. But the WB struck out with its preeming “The Starlet” on Sunday (0.7/2, 1.69m).

It was also a busy week for television’s top-rated crime franchises. NBC aired a record 10 episodes of its various “Law & Order” shows (including the premiering “Trial by Jury”), while CBS chipped in with a record six installments of the “CSI” franchise.

Bow of “Trial by Jury” on Friday averaged a slot-leading 4.1/12 in 18-49 and 14.52 million viewers overall, one night after a special Thursday preview seg (in “ER’s” timeslot) also won (6.2/17 in 18-49, 17.29m).

Also during the week:

–With nice showings on several nights, UPN posted its strongest weekly averages (1.6/4 in 18-49, 1.8/5 in 18-34) since mid-November, easily topping the WB (1.2/3 in 18-49, 1.4/4 in 18-34).

Start of “Top Model” and the conclusion of “Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott” (1.8/4 in 18-49, 4.31m) performed very well Wednesday; “WWE Smackdown” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 5.71m) matched or set several season highs Thursday; and Monday’s comedy block, led by “Girlfriends” and “Half and Half,” had its best night since November 2003.

–ABC’s fading “Bachelor” franchise hit another ratings low with the two-hour conclusion of the latest “The Bachelorette” (3.4/8 in 18-49, 8.37m). Next “Bachelor” bows March 28.

–Fox’s rookie drama “Jonny Zero” nearly lived down to its name, settling for a mere 0.8 rating/3 share in adults 18-49 on Friday.

–It was a good week for NBC’s “Dateline,” which scored solid numbers for a Wednesday special focusing on the sister of convicted murderer Scott Peterson (3.2/9 in 18-49, 10.91m). Newsmag also led its Friday hour (2.4/8 in 18-49, 10.01m) and had its best showing in seven weeks on Sunday with a two-hour seg.

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