NBC laughing in demo win

CBS still on top in total viewers

It was a battle of primetime’s top scripted series against the hottest unscripted skein last week, as the Thursday trio of “Friends,” “Will & Grace” and “ER” helped NBC edge out “American Idol”-powered Fox for the week among young adults.

The Peacock vets and two editions of the scorching-hot “Idol” accounted for the top five positions in the adults 18-49 rankings for the first full week of the May sweep.

CBS, despite a shaky demo perf, remained on top in total viewers and now has led by that measure in 23 of 32 weeks this season.

According to Nielsen Media Research, NBC won the week of April 28-May 4 in the key sales demo of adults 18-49 (4.3/12), squeaking past Fox (4.2/12). Finish repped a big difference from the same week a year ago, as Fox was up 20% and the Peacock, which last season loaded its sked with programming geared to its 75th anniversary, was down 27%.

For NBC, “ER” (9.0/25 in adults 18-49), “Friends” (8.9/27) and “Will & Grace” (8.5/21) kept the net on top of Thursday in key demos, and the “Law & Order” franchise was the No. 1 program of the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Peacock also got a boost from the finale of Friday’s “America’s Most Talented Kid,” which led its two-hour block in 18-49 (3.2/11), and from Tuesday’s “Dateline,” whose Madonna interview generated the newsmag’s second-best rating in 20 weeks (4.1/11).

With a little more than two weeks to go in the season, NBC is assured of finishing atop the standings in adults 18-49 with a 4.5/12.

Fox, which remains at a 4.2/11 but could round up to a 4.3 rating when the “American Idol” finale is factored into season averages, saw “Idol” dominate both of its hours last week. Tuesday’s seg (9.7/27) was the week’s No. 1 show in 18-49 (9.7/27) and 18-34 (9.6/29) — virtually matching the other five broadcast nets combined in the latter.

On Wednesday, a special hourlong “Idol” (9.0/26 in adults 18-49) helped lead-out laffer “Bernie Mac” to its best scores ever (6.4/16 in 18-49, 13.77 million viewers). “Mac” was the week’s No. 3 comedy in 18-49, behind “Friends” and “Will & Grace.”

Also winning its slots in key demos for Fox were Tuesday drama “24” (5.8/15 in adults 18-49), Saturday staples “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” and Sunday laffers “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle” (5.3/13 in 18-49).

ABC moved up to tie with CBS for third place in adults 18-49 (3.3 rating) and the nets now are even for the season (3.8/10).

ABC’s “The Bachelor” rang up its best scores for the current edition (6.4/16 in A18-49), topping its Wednesday hour for the first time. Net also led in 18-49 on Tuesday with “NYPD Blue” (4.4/12) and Saturday with a repeat of theatrical “Gladiator” (2.4/8), while Wednesday laffer “George Lopez” (second-place 3.4/9) built by a largest-yet 17% on its “My Wife and Kids” lead-in (2.9/9).

And the two-hour season-finale of “Alias,” while not spiking up much from its firstrun series average, placed a strong second in 18-49 (4.8/12) and won its Sunday block in 18-34 with the net’s best non-sports score in the time period since October (4.6/13).

CBS, third in both 18-49 and 25-54, won Monday in demos behind “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “CSI: Miami.” Eye was a strong No. 2 in key categories and first in total viewers on Thursday behind “CSI” (8.4/21 in A18-49, 22.67m) and “Survivor” (6.5/19, 17.65m).

Eye also did pretty well with a “The Price Is Right” spec, which was its top-rated Saturday show (1.8/7 in 18-49), and with Sunday made-for “Lucy” (3.5/9), which ranks No. 8 among the most-watched telepics of the season (12.91 million viewers).

The WB placed fourth in persons 12-34 (2.2/7) for a second straight week and continues to pace ahead of last season by double-digit percentages in key categories. Among its strong performers were Tuesday’s “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” and Wednesday’s “Dawson’s Creek” — each of which ranked No. 2 for their hours in adults 18-34.

Thursday’s “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” also stepped up, as the 90-minute season finale set season highs for the net in each half-hour it aired.

UPN continues to do well with its Monday comedy block, which was up 80% year-to-year in adults 18-34 (1.8/6 vs. 1.0/3), led by “Girlfriends” and “Half and Half” (both 1.9/5). And, although new Tuesday drama “Platinum” isn’t making much noise, it was up slightly week-to-week.

Among basic cablers, pro basketball-boosted TNT swept the week in primetime among adults 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34 (a 1.1 national rating in each) as well as total viewers (2.52 million). A Winston Cup auto race Saturday on FX was the week’s top show in both 18-49 (2.3 national rating) and total viewers (5.3 million).

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