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Must-see Eye sked

CBS wins Thurs., but 'Apple' bow lukewarm

CBS is off to a somewhat slow start with the premiere of new Thursday drama “Big Apple,” which improved the net’s position in its hour only slightly but did help clinch the Eye’s first in-season victory on a Thursday in more than 16 years.

According to Nielsen, the premiere of the David Milch/Anthony Yerkovich crime drama for Paramount averaged 12.24 million viewers and 4.5/12 in adults 18-49. That was good enough for a second-place finish behind NBC’s “ER,” which switched to an original episode from its skedded repeat to keep “Apple” from planting its seed in the 10 o’clock hour.

With NBC airing repeats of its 8-10 p.m. comedies, CBS’ “Survivor: The Australian Outback” (31.32m, 13.7/34 in A18-49) and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (23.72m, 9.3/22) surged to new Thursday highs across the board, lifting the Eye to its first in-season Thursday victory in total viewers and households since February 1985 (“Magnum P.I.,” “Simon and Simon” and “Knot’s Landing”).

CBS wins night

CBS won the night with an average of 22.58 million viewers to NBC’s 18.55 million. NBC prevailed in adults 18-49 (9.7 to 9.2) but CBS moved ahead in 25-54 (10.8 to 10.3).

The well-reviewed “Apple,” with Ed O’Neill topping an ensemble cast, gave CBS its largest aud in the Thursday-at-10 hour with regular programming since Oct. 28, 1999 (“48 Hours”), and its best 18-49 rating in the hour in at least two seasons.

Compared with the February sweep averages for “48 Hours,” “Big Apple” was up 25% in viewers (12.24m vs. 9.76m) and 29% in adults 18-49 (4.5/12 vs. 3.5/9). But because “CSI” delivered its strongest numbers yet in the 9 o’clock hour, “Big Apple’s” 18-49 retention of its lead-in (48%) isn’t much better than the newsmag’s during February (43%).

CBS is hoping that “Big Apple” can be the third piece to its Thursday puzzle, after “Survivor” and “CSI” have exceeded all expectations by winning the two-hour block in total viewers as well as some demos. “Apple” fell from its first to its second half-hour by 12% in viewers and by 16% in adults 18-49 — usually not a good sign for a premiere.

As with most new programs, though, a better indication of “Apple’s” long-term potential will come in its second try. This week, “ER” will be in repeat while “Big Apple” will again have a big lead-in advantage thanks to “Survivor” and a firstrun “CSI.”

Chomp change

“Big Apple” certainly didn’t take much of a bite out of “ER” this week, as primetime’s No. 1 drama (25.57m, 13.3/35 in A18-49) was off only slightly from its February averages despite a rerun “Just Shoot Me” (13.54m, 7.6/18) as a lead-in.

On Saturday, NBC’s coverage of the XFL slid another couple ticks in overnights to a 2.6 household rating — the fourth straight decline from the league’s strong opening-night 10.3.

CBS’ “Kate Brasher,” sandwiched by repeats this week, declined by about 13% vs. its strong premiere a week earlier. It again won its hour in total viewers (10.3 million) and women 25-54 (4.8/12).

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