Fox and NBC, each with a series that bowed with some ratings promise, claimed primetime victories during the last full week before the start of daylight savings time.
Early spring is typically a tough time to premiere shows, and most of the series to launch over the past couple of weeks have failed to wow in their bows. But Fox’s Wednesday laffer “Wanda at Large” — thanks to a huge lead-in from “American Idol” — and NBC’s Friday talent show “America’s Most Talented Kid” opened strongly and won their timeslots.
Things were tougher for ABC’s Friday comedy “Regular Joe,” Fox’s Sunday laffer “The Pitts” and the WB’s Sunday drama “Black Sash.” And a couple of shows that aired for a second time, ABC’s “All-American Girl” and the WB’s “On the Spot,” fared poorly.
Overall for the week of March 24-30, according to Nielsen, Fox prevailed in adults 18-49 over NBC (4.3 to 4.1) and won more comfortably in adults 18-34 (4.4 to 3.4). The Peacock moved ahead in adults 25-54 and total viewers, while CBS was third in most key demos but first in men 25-54 thanks to the NCAA men’s basketball tourney.
ABC remained out of contention and now is limping toward the end of the season in much the same way it did a year ago.
At roughly the three-quarter mark of the season, NBC maintains a 7% advantage over Fox in the key 18-49 demo battle; NBC leads CBS by 8% in adults 25-54; Fox tops NBC by 5% in adults 18-34; and CBS leads NBC by 8% in total viewers.
The week featured only one hour of sustained, commercial-free war coverage on the major nets (Thursday on Fox) — down from the nearly 17 hours the previous week, when war began.
Editions of “American Idol” on Tuesday (9.4/24 in adults 18-49) and Wednesday (8.7/21 in A18-49) were the week’s top programs in both the demo and total viewers. Season-to-date, “Idol” is the season’s most-watched program among viewers under 55.
“Wanda at Large,” premiering in a special 9:30 slot behind “Idol” on Wednesday, became Fox’s top-rated comedy premiere in more than two years in adults 18-49 (6.4/15) and in more than three years in total viewers (14.31 million). Net’s “The Pitts” on Sunday retained a soft 81% of its lead-in from “Malcolm in the Middle” (3.8/9 vs. 4.7/11 in adults 18-49).
NBC won four nights in 18-49 (Fox took the other three) and claimed four of the top five-rated dramas and comedies of the week. In addition, Friday’s “Most Talented Kid” won its premiere virtually across the board.
It was another big week for “Law & Order: SVU,” which was the top-rated program on both Friday and Saturday for a fourth straight week. The repeat “SVU’s” 4.3/13 in adults 18-49 on Saturday was the best average for any entertainment program on the night on any net since April 2002 (“Cops”).
College basketball, although down roughly 15% year-to-year, boosted CBS over its season averages on Friday and Saturday, but the net missed its Thursday lineup, which was preempted by hoops. “Survivor,” airing on Wednesday, was the week’s No. 3 show in total viewers despite sharp year-to-year declines.
Other highlights for the Eye included strong numbers for a Celine Dion concert spec from Las Vegas (4.1/10 in adults 18-49) and for Wednesday’s “60 Minutes II” (4.2/10), which topped an original episode of NBC’s fading “The West Wing” (3.8/9).
ABC continues to struggle Sundays at 10 with “Dragnet,” which last week retained just 70% of its “Alias” 18-49 lead-in and placed third. Former slot occupant “The Practice” consistently built on “Alias” and won its slot.
“Practice,” meanwhile, after a bit of a post-Oscar burst last week, continues to fare poorly on Mondays — running a distant fourth on Monday of the current week (2.9/7 in adults 18-49).
“Alias” and a special preview episode of “The Bachelor” tied as the Alphabet’s top-rated skeins of the week in adults 18-49 — the net’s only programs in the top 30.
The WB got the better of UPN in all key categories, despite disappointing second-week scores for “On the Spot” (1.4/4 in adults 18-34), which was coming out of the highest-rated episode of the season for “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” (2.2/6 in 18-34).
Net’s preem of “Black Sash” provided the net with year-to-year gains, although its 1.8/5 in adults 18-34 was an 18% drop from what original segs of “Angel” earned in the hour earlier this season.
“Sash” was coming out of a strong firstrun “Charmed,” which ran second to Fox at 8 in women 18-34 (3.8/11).
UPN was led by “WWE Smackdown” (2.1/6 in adults 18-34) and an original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1.9/5 in 18-34).
Fox News Channel (4.4 million) and CNN (3.71 million) were the most-watched basic cablers in primetime for a second straight week. They were both down about 20% vs. the prior week, which included the first five nights of the war in Iraq, but still up more than 200% vs. the same week a year ago.
TBS, boosted by the network preem of Sandra Bullock starrer “Miss Congeniality,” ranked third in both overall audience and adults 18-49 — also up sharply year-to-year.