‘Million,’ ‘Malcolm’ are mighty

'Angels' rates in fair condition

Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” continues to outsmart its Nielsen competition, while CBS’ multi-ethnic hospital drama “City of Angels” has emerged from a Sunday preview in fair condition.

Those were the highlights as the networks wrapped their Jan. 10-16 primetime Nielsens week, a period dominated by ABC and its “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” With nearly a third of the Alphabet’s schedule turned over to that hit gameshow last week, ABC has earned its biggest households margin of victory since Oscar week 1995.

Once its hefty Jan. 10-16 win is in the books officially (when Nielsen issues those results today), ABC is expected to pull within a tenth of a rating point of NBC’s season-to-date lead in the key adults 18-49 demographic, having trailed by four-tenths just three weeks earlier.

‘Malcolm’ mighty

Sunday night, though, the spotlight was stolen by Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” which piled up 23.34 million viewers and a towering 11.7 rating, 25 share in adults 18-49 in preliminary Nielsens. That 18-49 figure is Fox’s best in the slot with anything besides a Super Bowl since March 29, 1992 (“In Living Color”).

“Malcolm’s” 21% improvement over the slot’s lead-in rating from “The Simpsons” is down slightly from the previous week’s 25% build, but still one of the all-time best improvements on a “Simpsons” lead-in.

Last spring, “Futurama” premiered with a 23% gain over its “Simpsons” 18-49 lead-in, but faded to a 6% build with its second try.

CBS’ 8:30-9:30 preview of “City of Angels” (a prelim 13.95 million viewers, 4.7/10 in adults 18-49) settled for OK results, lagging about 4 million behind the average audience this season for slot regular “Touched by an Angel,” but matching “Touched’s” 18-49 season average. It’s likely, though, that “Touched” would have easily topped that average on what was otherwise a strong Sunday for CBS.

“City” did face rugged Sunday competition and may find the going somewhat easier when it settles into its regular slot in the 8-9 p.m. hour on Wednesdays.

Buzzed out

NBC was dealt a losing hand with the second try for “Twenty-One” (a prelim 13.17 million, 3.9/8 in adults 18-49), which lost nearly 3 million viewers vs. its previous-week premiere and equaled the lowest firstrun 18-49 rating of slot predecessor “Third Watch.”

CBS won the night in homes and was a strong second behind Fox in adults 18-49, thanks largely to a beefy NFL playoff overrun. That Tennessee-Indianapolis gridcast swept to a 23.3/36 household rating from 7-7:30 p.m. in Nielsen’s metered markets, putting it ahead of, for example, every episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” aired to date.

Sunday’s “Millionaire” (a prelim 28.36 million, 9.3/19 in adults 18-49) actually fell a bit short of the previous Sunday’s 18-49 score (9.6), but still outsleuthed Fox’s “The X-Files” (a prelim 16.18 million, 8.7/18) to win the hour.

That wrapped a spectacular week for “Millionaire,” which boosted ABC to a projected 11.2 rating for the week, in averages based on prelim weekend results. That’s the highest weeklong homes rating for any net not bolstered by major sports since the “Seinfeld” finale in May 1998.

Wide margin of victory

When Nielsen releases official Jan. 10-16 results today, CBS is expected to finish second with a 9.0 rating, giving ABC its biggest homes margin since the week of March 27-April 2, 1995, when the Academy Awards propelled ABC 2.5 rating points ahead of second.

Projected 18-49 results for the week are: ABC, a 6.5 rating (up 41% vs. year-ago results); NBC, 5.0 (down 9%); Fox, 4.8 (down 9%); CBS, 4.1 (down 9%). Those figures should lift ABC to a season-average 5.1 rating, right behind NBC’s first-place 5.2 with roughly half the season remaining.

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.