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‘Xena’ hits a season zenith, tops all syndie action hours

Universal Domestic TV’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” is quickly becoming the latest syndication phenomenon. The weekly action hour hit a new all-time high for the second straight week for the period ending Feb. 23, crush-ing all opponents and recording the highest rating for an action hour all season.

In the latest outing, “Xena” upticked another 1% to a 7.8, which marked its fifth straight weekly increase and a 56% improvement over its rating just five weeks ago. For the first time ever, the showed tied for the top season-to-date spot among weeklies with Paramount Domestic TV’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and Universal’s “Hercules.” Compared to the same week last season, “Xena” is up 37%.

Despite increases, “Xena’s” top weekly competitors lagged far behind on the latest national chart for the third full sweeps week. “Hercules” gained 1% to a 7.0, which was 4% ahead of last year’s level and also a season high. “Star Trek” gained 12% to 6.7, which was off 8% from last year.

Most other weeklies suffered. All American’s “Baywatch” sank 9% to 4.3, off 22% from last year, and MGM’s “Outer Limits” lost 8% to 3.3, down a full 30% from last year. Par’s “Viper” led the frosh weeklies, accelerating 10% to 3.2, which was still 6% below its debut rating. One new weekly to hit a season low: Keller Siegel’s “Tarzan,” which dipped 13% to 1.3, off 24% from its premiere.

In the world of syndie strips, a couple of mags perked up. Par’s “Entertainment Tonight” grew 3% to 6.8, which was 6% over last year, making it the only mag to show year-to-year growth. King World’s “Inside Edition” also gained 6% to 5.5, but was down 11% from last year. Par’s “Hard Copy” fell 5% to 4.2, off 18% from last year. Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution’s “Extra” was flat at 3.5 and off 8% from its year-ago mark. King World’s “American Journal” was also flat at 3.4, but off 15% from last year.

Twentieth TV’s frosh mag “Access Hollywood” grew 10% to 3.2, but trailed Par’s “Real TV,” which dipped 3% to 3.3. Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” reality strip increased 5% and tied its season high of 2.2. Rysher’s ‘Strange Uni-verse” fell 7% from its all-time high to a 1.3.

Gameshows changed very little. King World’s ‘Wheel of Fortune” rose 2% to 12.7, but was off 2% from its year-ago mark. King World’s “Jeopardy!” also added 2% to 10.5, which tied it with Buena Vista’s “Home Improve-ment,” but fell 5% from last year. Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s frosh “Dating/Newlywed Hour” climbed 6% to 1.7, while Tribune’s “Bzzz!” remained at a season low of 1.2.

“Home Improvement” rose 1% for the week and 6% from last year. CTTD’s “Seinfeld” fell 2% to 8.3, but was up 2% from last year. Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” was flat at 7.1, but jumped 13% from last year. CTTD’s “Mad About You” led the frosh off-nets, despite falling 6% to 4.7.

In talk action, King World’s “Oprah” surged ahead 8% to 9.2, off just 2% from last year. WBDTD’s “Rosie O’Don-nell” grew 2% to 5.4, and “Jenny Jones” rose 7% to a third-place 4.8, its season high, which was even with its year-ago rating. Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” remained at its season high of 4.7, up 9% from last year. Par’s “Montel Williams” faded 10% to 4.7, but managed a 4% increase over last year. CTTD’s “Ricki Lake” was flat at 4.2, but also up 2% over last year. Most other talkers were lower.

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