Peacock web takes ‘Wing’ in demo fight

'Grow Up' boosts ABC

The early Nielsen returns look encouraging for NBC’s “The West Wing,” as the highly anticipated skein collected lots of viewers’ votes in Nielsen households Wednesday opposite tough competish from the Eye’s broadcast of the “Country Music Awards.”

It’s too soon to project that NBC has a winner, though, especially since the show’s progress among young adults was surprisingly modest vs. the Peacock’s year-ago results. “West Wing” built impressively on NBC’s previous-hour results but skewed fairly old and couldn’t match the previous night’s adults 18-49 numbers earned by the ABC drama “Once and Again.”

The White House-based hour also found itself somewhat overshadowed by NBC skedmate “Law & Order” (18.6 million viewers, 7.6 rating, 20 share in adults 18-49, up 15% vs. last year’s premiere 18-49 rating) and CBS’ “Country Music Awards” (18.8 million viewers, 6.7/18 in adults 18-49), which strummed its sweetest tune in adults 18-34 in three years.

The “West Wing” vote count — 16.9 million viewers and a 6.1/16 in adults 18-49 — represents a 3% increase over year-ago 18-49 results in the slot from comedies “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “NewsRadio.” Though the year-ago figures were somewhat inflated by a “NewsRadio” seg that wrote out Phil Hartman’s character, “West Wing’s” 3% build is still an unspectacular advance for a show consistently tagged with front-runner status among the fall’s new candidates.

“West Wing” skewed heavily toward the larger markets, giving NBC stations in New York and Washington spectacular 41% increases for the night over their local year-ago household ratings (with a 15.1/25 in Gotham and an 11.6/24 in D.C.). “Law & Order” did even better in Gotham, posting an amazing 23 rating/33 share.

‘Dateline’ doldrums

“West Wing’s” biggest handicap was its lead-in from another sluggish “Dateline NBC” (11.71 million, 3.5/11 in adults 18-49). Viewers may be wearying of the five-night-a-week newsmag if early season results are any indication. Through three nights of the new season, “Dateline” is averaging a punchless 4.0/11 in adults 18-49, down 25% from last year’s 5.3/15 (NBC’s schedule as a whole is up 2%).

The night also saw ABC doing fairly well with the debuting 9:30 sitcom “Oh Grow Up” (10.7 million, 5.6/14 in adults 18-49). “Grow” retained 85% of its 18-49 lead-in from the season premiere of “Drew Carey” (12.9 million, 6.6/17 in adults 18-49, down 16% from last year’s premiere 18-49 score). Last year in the 9:30 slot, “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” retained just 73% of its 18-49 lead-in.

As anticipated, ABC’s comedies couldn’t keep up with year-ago results now that “Dharma & Greg” has switched to Tuesdays.

Most encouraging results came from the night’s new leadoff hitter, “Two Guys and a Girl” (11.2 million, 5.5/18 in adults 18-49), which won its slot in the 18-49 demo and improved vs. its season premiere a year ago by 3 share points in adults 18-34.

“The Norm Show” (11.4 million, 5.8/16 in adults 18-49) picked up some of the slack at 8:30 with a 5% build on its 18-49 lead-in from “Two Guys.”

NBC’s demo challenge

With “West Wing” off to a good start and ABC’s comedy falloffs, NBC now has a shot at passing the Alphabet and controlling the night’s 18-49 race. NBC edged ahead of ABC by a 0.2 ratings-point margin in Sept. 22 nightlong results (5.7 vs. 5.5).

CBS’ “Country Music Awards” won Wednesday in viewers and all 18-49 and 25-54 categories. In households, the kudocast equaled last year’s lowest-ever 12.3 rating, but it was still CBS’ top-rated Wednesday since the Grammys.

And this year’s “CMA” skew was impressively young. With a strong promo campaign, and perfs from such hot acts as the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, the show’s ratings grew by 16% vs. last year in adults 18-34 (with a 6.4 vs. a 5.5) and 19% in women 18-34 (7.6 vs. 6.4).

Fox flummox

Fox remained trapped in its premiere week from hell. The outlook is getting really bleak for “Get Real” (5.3 million, 2.6/7 in adults 18-49), which barely managed half the 18-49 rating of any Big Four slot competitor and fell below the orbit of UPN’s sixth-season premiere of “Star Trek: Voyager” (6.2 million, 2.9/8 in adults 18-49, up 12% vs. last year’s premiere 18-49 score).

At 8 p.m., Fox’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” (8.0 million, 4.5/13 in adults 18-49) sagged 26% below its year-ago 18-49 rating while sinking to its lowest household rating since January 1991.

NBC’s strong Wednesday in the larger markets produced the highest “Tonight Show” metered market tally on a premiere-week Wednesday in 12 years.