‘Blue’ scores for red-hot ABC

Alphabet regaining Tuesday dominance

Tuesday is once again an ABC night. Thanks to the continuing smash success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and the return of “NYPD Blue,” ABC reasserted its control of a night it had mostly dominated over the past 25 years before a late-’90s decline.

In its first telecast as a Tuesday 8-9 p.m. regular, “Millionaire” set a new series record in adults 18-49 and amassed its second-highest viewer total. Then at 10 p.m., “Blue” opened its seventh season with a hefty 14% increase over year-ago 18-49 results.

That put ABC a commanding 9 shares ahead of second-place NBC in adults 18-49 for the night, a big improvement over the Alphabet’s vulnerable 2-share advantage both this season and during the 1998-99 campaign.

The Jan. 11 “Millionaire” seg netted a best-yet 9.9 rating, 26 share in adults 18-49; it lured 28.60 million viewers, second only to the 29.71 million earned by the gameshow’s November finale. That 9.9 18-49 rating more than doubles ABC’s regular-series 4.6 season average in the hour.

At 10 p.m., “NYPD Blue” hit the streets with an 8.2/21 in adults 18-49, up from last season’s 7.2/20, and 19.13 million viewers, “Blue’s” biggest premiere audience in three years.

“Blue” locked up a 46% 18-49 jump over rookie drama “Once and Again’s” average in the slot in firstrun (a 5.6 rating), though “Blue” starts out just 5% ahead of “Once’s” premiere Nielsens from last September (7.8).

At 9 p.m., a “Millionaire” lead-in boosted “Dharma & Greg” to a series-record total-viewer count (19.41 million) and its second best 18-49 figures (8.6/21). At 9:30, the sluggish “Sports Night” (14.01 million viewers, 6.4/16 in adults 18-49) held an anemic 74% of that 18-49 lead-in (6.4 vs. 8.5).

“Will & Grace” (13.44 million, 6.9/17 in adults 18-49) saw its best Tuesday Nielsens since premiere week.

At 9:30, though, NBC’s “Veronica’s Closet” (11.13 million, 5.8/14 in adults 18-49) got slammed in its second Tuesday try, retaining just 84% of its 18-49 lead-in.

Fox’s fast-starting “Malcolm in the Middle” (8.69 million, 3.9/10 in adults 18-49) did nothing special in a Tuesday reprise of the show’s Sunday premiere, dropping Fox to fourth that half-hour in adults 18-49.

Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only viewers watching TV during the slot involved.