Peacock harvests sweeps with ‘Tomatoes’

“Fried Green Tomatoes” has rolled to the highest rating for any theatrical film televised on the networks in more than nine years, in the process squashing the competition and sliding NBC into the lead at the start of the May sweeps.

This attack of the killer “Tomatoes” solidifies NBC’s reputation as “Mr. May” of the three nets. Despite getting hammered consistently over the past regular season and finishing uncompetitively second the term before that, NBC is still in the running this year for its ninth-straight May sweeps victory.

“Tomatoes” is a big part of the reason, having peeled off a juicy 23.8 rating , 38 share for the best theatrical-pic rating since “Star Wars” premiered on CBS with a 25.1/35 on Feb. 26, 1984.

Only one other theatrical — NBC’s “Kindergarten Cop” (Feb. 9, 1992, 21.4/30) — has even cracked the 20-rating barrier in the six years since “Karate Kid” did it with a 22.6/32 on March 2, 1987.

The long drought in theatrical-pic ratings dates back to the 1984-85 season, when the category was hit with a 7% ratings decline. The year before, no fewer than four films topped the recent “Tomatoes” rating, but in ’84-85 no films managed to attain that level and only two pix even topped a 20 rating.

“Tomatoes’ ” achievement is all the more remarkable considering the huge inroads made against network dominance by cable services, independent TV and other viewing alternatives over the nine-year span since a theatrical last reached such Nielsen heights.

The combo of “Tomatoes,” Wednesday’s Linda Gray telefilm “Moment of Truth” and the gathering momentum of “Cheers,””Seinfeld” and the rest of NBC’s Thursday schedule has pushed the Peacock to the head of the pack for the April 26-May 2 prime time Nielsens week and given NBC a jump on the competition at the start of the May sweeps.

Through Monday of this week, six-night averages for the four-week Arbitron period are: NBC, 12.8/22; ABC, 11.1/19; CBS, 11.0/19; Fox Broadcasting Co., 7.9/ 14. After five nights of the 28-night Nielsen period, it’s NBC, 12.6/22; ABC and CBS, 11.1/19 each; and Fox, 7.6/13.

This is NBC’s first weeklong win since the Super Bowl, second since last summer’s Barcelona Olympics and first without benefit of a major sporting event since last May 18-24. NBC hadn’t even finished alone in second place without big sports help since last Sept. 7-13, 32 weeks ago.

NBC’s best since Super Bowl

It was also NBC’s highest weeklong rating since Super Bowl week, and before that since last Oct. 26-Nov. 1. Excluding weeks of major sporting events, it was NBC’s highest share since April 27-May 3, 1992.

And with last week’s competition sometimes opting for old-skewing fare to prop up its household numbers, NBC was unchallenged among adult viewers aged 18- 49, winning that category outright for the first time since last June 22-28. Those standings last week were NBC, 7.0/20; ABC, 6.1/17; Fox, 5.0/14; and CBS, 4 .9/14. That race marks the first time Fox has escaped fourth in full-week adults 18-49 results since last Sept. 7-13, when it beat both NBC and CBS. Last week Fox won Saturday in this demographic and ran second on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Monday of the current week went to CBS in households, breaking a three-week NBC winning streak on the night. CBS tied for first or led for five of the night’s six half-hours, losing only with the struggling “Bob” (10.8/18, last at

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