‘CSI’ soars amid series bows Thurs.

Skein becomes CBS' most-watched seg since 'Murder' in '93

Solid starts for the new edition of “Survivor” on CBS and laffer “Leap of Faith” on NBC were overshadowed Thursday by the Eye’s sophomore drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which soared to ratings highs.

According to national estimates from Nielsen, “CSI” established best-yet scores across the board, including adults 18-49 (10.5/24) and adults 25-54 (12.5/27). The total-viewer tally (28.74 million) surpassed its previous record by more than 3 million viewers, making the episode the most-watched seg of a CBS drama since “Murder, She Wrote” in February 1993.

In fact, with the exception of “ER” and four episodes of “Murder,” no regularly skedded drama on any net in the past 10 years has drawn a larger audience than Thursday’s “CSI.”

It also attracted a bigger crowd than an original “ER” on NBC airing later in the evening (24.90m). This means that for the first time since “ER’s” premiere month in September 1994, the medical drama will not rank as the most-watched drama for a week in which it aired an original episode (although it’s still the week’s top drama in adults 18-49, 12.1/31).

“CSI” likely got a boost by airing one night after CBS’ coverage of the “Grammy Awards” as well as airing for the first time since its (long-overdue) initial appearance on the cover of TV Guide.

It also played immediately after the premiere of “Survivor: Marquesas,” the fourth edition of the successful reality adventure series, which delivered potent ratings despite facing “Friends” and “Leap of Faith.”

“Survivor” finished second to NBC’s comedies in the 8 o’clock hour in total viewers (23.19 million) and adults 18-49 (9.1/22) while topping the Peacock pair in kids, teens, men 25-54 and viewers 50-plus. “Friends” (27.52m, 13.2/33 in A18-49) beat “Survivor” in all key categories with the latest in that comedy’s highly promoted soap opera-like storylines.

At 8:30, “Survivor” moved ahead of “Leap of Faith” in several categories and was just a tick behind in 18-49 (9.9/23 vs. 9.8/23).

For its hour, “Survivor: Marquesas” was off by 12% in adults 18-49 from the premiere of “Survivor: Africa” in October (9.1 vs. 10.4) but 8% ahead of “Africa’s” series average (8.4).

“Leap,” a twentysomething ensemble laffer that received mixed-to-poor reviews, lost 25% of its boffo “Friends” 18-49 lead-in (9.9/23 vs. 13.2/33). This compares with a 29% dropoff average for the first two episodes of “Inside Schwartz” in the slot last fall.

Given that it was up against the premiere of “Survivor: Marquesas,” it’s not a bad start for “Leap.” Although it’s likely that NBC would do better with repeats of either “Will & Grace” or “Friends” in the 8:30 slot, the net — which will lose “Friends” at the end of next season — must continue to use the half-hour as a testing ground for potential hit comedies.

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