Real Eye-opener

'Raymond,' strong 'Law' preem power CBS

The Eye’s wide open for business on Monday nights.

That’s the key message to emerge from the first night of the 1999-2000 season, which kicked off Monday with CBS getting solid sampling for its new sked — including a surprisingly strong influx of younger viewers.

As always, ABC won the night in homes and most key demos thanks to “Monday Night Football.” The pigskin franchise (15.2/25 in homes, 21.53 million viewers, 9.5/26 in adults 18-49) charged 23% ahead of the comparable year-ago Dallas-N.Y. Giants telecast, despite Monday’s relatively one-sided Dallas victory over Atlanta.

What most interested industry watchers, however, was the strong showing of CBS’ revamped Monday sked, which won the night among the Eye’s target aud of women 25-54 and placed a solid second behind football in homes and adults 18-49.

More impressively, CBS showed strong year-to-year gains for the night, jumping 22% in adults 18-49, 14% in homes and 17% in adults 25-54.

The Eye’s victory was keyed to best-ever preem numbers (and best overall adults 18-49 ratings ever) for “Everybody Loves Raymond” at 9, as well as stronger than expected sampling for the bow of “Family Law” at 10 p.m.

“Law” was the night’s highest-rated drama, delivering CBS’ best perf in the slot since the 1997 premiere of “Brooklyn South.” Femme-skewed hour cleaned up, scoring a 7.0/18 among women 18-49 and a stunning 8.8/21 with women 25-54.

Night kicked off with “King of Queens” at 8 improving on “Cosby’s” homes and demo average from last season. Build was particularly strong in adults 18-49, where “King” jumped a healthy 35%

At 8:30, the new laffer “Ladies Man” built by a promising 4% on its 18-49 lead-in. Show also won its slot in viewers and adults 18-49, and finished just a 10nth of a rating point behind the second half-hour of ABC’s “20/20.”

‘Susan’ sinks

NBC had a so-so night Monday, with its one new skein doing better than returning series.

In terms of total viewers, the new “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” was the Peacock’s best Monday preem since “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in 1990. Spinoff of NBC’s Wednesday vet also built in its second half-hour.

But in NBC’s target demo of adults 18-49, “L&O” slipped 8% compared to last year’s combo of “Caroline in the City” and “Will & Grace.”

Things look even bleaker for NBC from 8-9 p.m., where “Suddenly Susan” (5.9/10 in homes, 8.08 million viewers, 3.9/11 in adults 18-49) and “Veronica’s Closet” (6.0/9 in homes, 8.32 million viewers, 4.1/11 in adults 18-49) fell 24% below the year-ago 18-49 results of “Susan” and “Conrad Bloom.”

Airing outside the protective Thursday cocoon, “Veronica’s” stumbled to what is apparently its lowest-rated seg ever.

Over at the WB, “7th Heaven” streaked to a 5.8/9 in homes (8.67 million viewers, 2.8/8 in adults 18-49). That’s up 32% over last year’s “7th” debut for the best season-premiere homes rating in WB history.

‘Safe’ not sound

At 9 p.m., the seas got rougher for premiering rookie “Safe Harbor” (3.8/6 in homes, 5.45 million viewers, 1.6/4 in adults 18-49). “Harbor” held just 62% of its 18-49 lead-in from “7th,” down from the year-ago 68% retention for unsuccessful slot predecessor “Hyperion Bay.”

While the solid perf of the Eye’s new Monday sked has to be encouraging to CBS execs, it’s too soon to get a read on any web’s long-term prognosis for the night. The reason: Fox essentially took a pass on the evening, delaying the bows of “Ally McBeal” and the new “Time of Your Life” until next month.