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Networks race tight in first week of sweeps

The first week of November was an especially competitive one among the networks in primetime, with the Big Three within a tick of each other in key demos and Fox deep in fourth despite several season premieres.

Monster hits like “Desperate Housewives” and “CSI” powered ABC and CBS, respectively; NBC lacked a killer show but received a nice boost from a “Saturday Night Live” spec on the eve of the presidential election and was the clear choice of viewers on election night.

For the week of Nov. 1-7, according to Nielsen, ABC and NBC tied for the lead in adults 18-49 (4.2 rating/11 share), with CBS right on their tails (4.1/11). The Eye, which was easily the most-watched network overall in primetime, squeaked ahead in adults 25-54 as well (4.9/12), with the Alphabet and Peacock a tick back at 4.8/11.

In all key adult categories and total viewers, Fox ran fourth — seeing weak results Sunday from “Arrested Development” and the limited-run reality farce “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.”

Leading the way for ABC was the Sunday combo of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (8.5/19 in adults 18-49, 20.17 million viewers overall for the second of its two hours) and “Desperate Housewives” (11.1/24 in 18-49, 24.60m), both of which hit new highs. “Housewives” was the week’s No. 1 program in 18-49 and was the season’s top-rated telecast in 18-34 (9.9/24).

Their first-year Sunday skedmate, 10 o’clock drama “Boston Legal,” didn’t fare as well (4.8/12 in 18-49, 11.88m), losing more than half of its “Housewives” lead-in and trailing NBC drama rival “Crossing Jordan” (5.3/13, 14.38m).

ABC also got solid Friday numbers from “20/20” (3.0/9 in 18-49, 8.27m) and “Complete Savages” (2.3/7, 6.70m), which had its best showing yet among viewers under 50, and again dominated Wednesday’s opening hour with frosh megahit “Lost” (6.7/17 in 18-49, 18.73m).

NBC was paced by top-10 Thursday performers “ER” (8.3/21 in 18-49, 17.01m) and “The Apprentice 2” (7.8/19, 16.06m) and received solid drama perfs by “Crossing Jordan” (featuring characters from the net’s “Las Vegas”), the best scores in a year for “West Wing” (4.3/10, 13.82m) and a dominant victory on Friday for “Third Watch” (3.4/10, 10.38m).

Comedies “Joey” (5.2/14 in 18-49, 12.56m) and “Will & Grace” (5.2/13, 11.87m) remain solid on Thursday, although they’re down sharply vs. the perf of “Friends” a year ago, and Monday’s “SNL Presidential Bash ’04: The Great Debates” racked up strong numbers (5.8/15 in 18-49, 13.01m).

For CBS, Sunday’s “Cold Case” set series highs (4.5/10 in 18-49, 17.66m) with a seg that started about 45 minutes late in most of the country due to football, and Thursday’s powerhouse lineup kicked off the sweep with big numbers (Daily Variety, Nov. 8).

“CSI” was the week’s No. 1 show in both adults 25-54 (13.3/28) and total viewers (30.58m), with the best scores since its season premiere.

At Fox, the season premiere of “The Simpsons” (5.6/13 in 18-49, 11.29m) was a hit, despite the exceptional competish from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” but the rest of the night fell off with “Arrested Development” (3.2/7 in 18-49, 6.61m) and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.39m).

Wednesday’s “Nanny 911” opened pretty well (3.8/9 in 18-49, 8.64m), but Monday’s “The Swan 2” was nothing special (3.1/7, 7.05m).

The WB topped UPN in adults 18-34 (1.8/5 vs. 1.5/4), with the former led by its potent Tuesday tandem of “Gilmore Girls” and “One Tree Hill.” Also, “Smallville” grabbed its best 18-34 score in five weeks (3.1/8), “Blue Collar TV” equaled its best scores in key male demos, and Sunday’s “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” hit a season high in persons 12-34 (1.3/4).

At UPN, “America’s Next Top Model” climbed to its best scores of the fall (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.67m), and new dramas “Veronica Mars” (1.4/3 in 18-49, 2.86m) and “Kevin Hill” (1.6/4, 3.54m) continue to perform solidly.

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