Rumsfeld hearings gum up syndie ratings

'Seinfeld,' 'Friends' lead off-net laffers

NEW YORK — During the first full week of the May sweep, most syndicated shows were fairly lackluster due to preemptions caused by Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony before the armed services committee.

Several hours of coverage were carried by the networks, blowing out much syndie programming and averaging zero ratings into many shows.

Somewhat warmer weather also kept viewing down.

The one category of shows that did very well was off-net sitcoms, a group whose ratings often run counter to other shows. All of the top five sitcoms managed minor increases.

“Seinfeld” continued to lead, up 3% from the week before to a 6.0. “Friends” was in second place was up 5% to 5.8. “Everybody Loves Raymond” was up 2% to a 5.4, “That ’70s Show” was up 3% to 3.5 and “Will & Grace” was up 3% to a 3.3.

Elsewhere, “Blind Date” had the biggest percentage increase among any of the other category leaders. It was up 7% to 1.5, topping the late night dating shows for the 24th time in the last 25 weeks.

“Elimidate” the No. 2 dating show was down 7% to 1.3.

There was also a little life at the top of the talkshows. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was up 6% to 6.9 and “Dr. Phil” saw a 5.4, which was unchanged from the week before. Both shows were up 10% year to year.

“Ellen Degeneres” was top rookie at a 1.9, unchanged from the week before.

“Martha Stewart Living,” which will not return next season according to her company, got a .7 rating this week, unchanged from the week before but down 36% from last year.

Show is currently on in 61% of the country, as opposed to the roughly 90% it occupied before it was dropped by Viacom following her conviction in early March.

It is the lowest rated talk show in syndication.