Fox, Eye surprise ABC with Sun. wins

Comedy block, 'X-Files' boost numbers

Fox and CBS scored ratings victories on Sunday, sending ABC to surprise second-place finishes despite the return of celebrity “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

According to prelim nationals from Nielsen, Fox won every half-hour of primetime in adults 18-49 and 18-34, while CBS prevailed in total viewers behind stronger-than-usual numbers for “Touched by an Angel” and its movie.

ABC placed second in both total viewers and demos as the first of five nights of celebrity “Millionaire” grabbed strong numbers yet fell well short of previous celeb segs.

Night also saw NBC mini “Steve Martini’s The Judge” get off to a dismal start, posting the weakest NBC Sunday sweep movie scores on record (prelim 9.8m, 2.7/7 in A18-49). That left the net fourth on the night in adults 18-49 (projected 3.0/8), hurting its chances of winning the week outright in the key demo.

Tied for top

When Nielsen issues ratings today for the week of April 30-May 7, NBC is projected to finish in a tie with “Survivor”-led CBS atop the adults 18-49 leader board (4.6 rating each), followed by Fox (4.1) and ABC (3.9). CBS will win easily in total viewers (14.3 million), more than 3 million viewers ahead of second-place NBC (11.2m).

Through 11 nights of the four-week May sweep, NBC is the projected leader in adults 18-49 (4.8), followed by CBS (4.4), Fox (4.0) and ABC (3.7). The Eye (13.9 million) is well ahead of the pack in total viewers.

On Sunday, Fox was the only major net up vs. the same week a year ago (9% in total viewers to a prelim 11 million, and 8% in adults 18-49 to a first-place 5.6/15). Its two-hour comedy block was up 11% in 18-49 vs. a year ago (5.0/15 vs. 4.5/14), with all four shows posting gains, while “The X-Files” won its hour (prelim 6.7/15) over celebrity “Millionaire” (prelim 6.2/14) and was up a tick in the demo year-to-year.

CBS won on a Sunday in total viewers (prelim 13.6m) for only the second time in 13 weeks. “Touched by an Angel,” boosted by the first significant appearance for new regular Valerie Bertinelli, grabbed its best numbers (prelim 13.9m, 3.5/9 in A18-49) since February, and “Hallmark Hall of Fame” pic “Follow the Stars Home” posted the Eye’s best Sunday made-for marks (prelim 13.5m, 4.0/10) since Dec. 17 (“The Christmas Secret”).

Quizzer fizzer

“Millionaire,” which put Jason Alexander, Kevin Sorbo and John Leguizamo in the hot seat, won its hour in total viewers (prelim 19.2m) and was a solid second in 18-49 (prelim 6.2/14) — but these numbers are down more than 20% from last November’s opening celebrity edition and about 45% lower than last May’s first night of celebs. Still, it’s the best demo showing for the quizzer on a Sunday since March.

“The Practice” again ruled the 10 o’clock hour (prelim 17.2m, 7.0/18 in A18-49), logging its best demo score since March 18.

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