Syndicated shows got off to a lackluster start in the February sweeps, according to the Nielsen national barter rankings overlapping with the first two days of the local market measurement period.

Following a trouncing from O.J. Simpson trial preemptions in their previous outing, the syndie pack failed to make an anticipated comeback during the week ended Feb. 5.

In fact, a number of series were weakened by scattered Simpson coverage on Jan. 30 and Feb. 3, the days Nicole Brown’s sister testified.

The talkshow pack had a disappointing week, but there were exceptions: Buena Vista TV’s “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee” tacked on 2% to 4.4, Tribune’s “Geraldo” rose 6% to 3.6, and Multimedia’s “Donahue” climbed 6% to 3.4.

King World’s top-rated “Oprah Winfrey Show” hit its lowest ratings of the season, slipping 3% to 7.6 and falling behind Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” for the second consecutive week. “Oprah,” incidentally, escaped preemptions and remained at 99% coverage.

Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” and Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” – the second-and third-ranked chatshows, respectively – retreated during the week. “Ricki” slipped 4% to 5.2 and “Jenny” fell 8% to 4.6.

Still, “Ricki” decisively defeated “Oprah” in women 18-34 and was breathing down her neck with the 18-49 female set.

Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” and Par’s “Montel Williams Show” – a solid fourth in the younger demos – each gave up 7% of their ratings and wound up at an identical 4.0 mark.

Newcomers to the talk ranks were hurt, with Group W’s “Marilu” plunging 27% to an all-time low of 0.8 as the syndicator nears a renewal decision.

Multimedia’s “Susan Powter” was unable to stop the ratings insanity and coughed up 21% of its Nielsen body weight, slimming down to a worst-ever 1.1.

Twentieth TV’s “Gordon Elliott,” the top-performing new talkshow of the season, drifted 4% lower to a 2.7.

Most of the other new daytime and latenight contenders failed to show any improvement from the previous week’s meager levels. However, Col’s “The Newz” showed a modest 13% gain to 1.5, and Multimedia’s “Dennis Prager” bounced back 38% to 1.1, matching his highest numbers yet.

Magazines were generally dull, with the exception of KW’s “Inside Edition.” With outgoing host Bill O’Reilly, the tabloid strip jumped 10% to 6.6 and pulled ahead of Par’s “Hard Copy” (6.1), which only inched up 2% over its sharply depressed 6.0 the previous week.

Numbers for Twentieth’s “A Current Affair” were reprocessed for the second straight week.

Par’s newsmag leader “Entertainment Tonight,” which has lately been opening with rock music and a casually dressed anchor team, slipped 3% to 7.8.

KW’s “American Journal” moved up 8% to 4.2, with Warner Bros.’ newcomer “Extra – the Entertainment Magazine” gaining a like amount to 4.0 and outpacing “Journal” in the younger demos and tying among adults 25-54.

On the weekly front, All American TV’s “Baywatch” dropped 8% to 7.2 after riding the ratings crest to a top-rated 7.8 a week earlier. It wound up behind the normal frontrunner, Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (7.4).

MCA TV’s “Journeys of Hercules” (6.3) muscled its way to a 13% increase in its second outing as a weekly, while “Vanishing Son” rose 10% to 4.6.

Cannell’s “Renegade” cut loose, accelerating 15% to a season high mark of 5.5., while Worldvision’s “University Hospital” harvested a 17% gain to 2.8.

In the off-net arena, Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” cooled off a bit and eased 3% to 6.5 but still led among adults 18-34. WB’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” dipped 2% to 6.0 and MCA’s “Coach” was flat.

“Cops” from Twentieth was one of the few off-net strips to improve during the week, rising 2% to 5.8.