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ABC was having a great week anyway, but its Sunday combo of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Desperate Housewives” put an exclamation point on things.

A reality-drama combo arguably as potent now as CBS’ Thursday tandem of “Survivor” and “CSI,” the “Extreme”-“Desperate” powerhouse perfs capped the Alphabet net’s highest-rated week outside of Super Bowl frames in four years. Net also rolled with three nights of postseason football and a big Wednesday with record highs from “Lost” and a great start for the returning “Alias.”

According to Nielsen national estimates for the week of Jan. 3-9, ABC amassed a big 6.0 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 — well ahead of NBC (3.8/10), CBS (3.7/8) and Fox (3.6/9) — and also racked up victories in every other category from persons 12-34 (4.4/13) and adults 25-54 (6.8/16) to total viewers (15.9 million).

Big week has helped ABC, which was in fourth place for the season at this time a year ago, maintain its strong second-place standing in key demos through 16 weeks of the 2004-05 campaign.

Leader CBS will open up some distance on its rivals with coverage of the NFL playoffs over the next two weeks, but ABC has impressively pulled to within a lash of the Eye for the season-to-date 18-49 lead nearing the midway point of the season (3.9/11 vs. 4.0/11).

Racking up victories

There were highlights aplenty for the Alphabet last week, including dominant victories with football on Tuesday with the college championship game between USC and Oklahoma (7.4/19 in 18-49, 21.42 million viewers overall) and Saturday with the overtime National Football League wild-card playoff game between the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers (10.4/29 in 18-49, 25.76m).

Wednesday saw huge numbers for “Lost” and the best-ever primetime results for “Alias” (Daily Variety, Jan. 5).

On Sunday, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” reached new highs (8.6/19 in 18-49, 19.97m), followed by the second-best results to date for “Desperate Housewives” (11.2/23 in 18-49, 25.20m) — the week’s and season’s No. 1 program in 18-49.

Net also had reason to cheer its Friday comedy results, with “8 Simple Rules” (2.9/9 in 18-49, 8.39m at 8:30) and “Hope & Faith” (3.2/10, 8.82m) posting their best ratings since last winter.

NBC, even without top-rated series “ER,” moved up to second for the week in 18-49, thanks to a boffo bow for psychic drama “Medium” (6.3/16 in 18-49, 16.09m) and good results for new laffer “Committed” on both its regular night of Tuesday and in a special Thursday airing.

Other standouts for the net include series highs for the penultimate episode of weight-loss skein “The Biggest Loser” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 11.34m); Matt Lauer’s interview of Amber Frey on Tuesday’s special “Dateline” (6.0/15, 15.97m), the most-watched edition of the newsmag in nearly three years; and the first demo victory for Wednesday’s “Law & Order” (4.5/11 in 18-49) over an original seg of CBS rival “CSI: NY” (4.2/10).

Reality bites

It was a rough start for CBS unscripted skeins “Wickedly Perfect” on Thursday and “The Will” on Saturday, but weekly highlights include best-ever ratings for Thursday drama “Without a Trace” (7.7/20 in 18-49, 23.76m). Lead-in “CSI” (9.7/24 in 18-49) was the week’s most-watched program overall (28.86 million).

Fox remained fourth despite airing Sunday’s huge NFL overrun for the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game, which led into sturdy numbers for the season preem of drama “24” (Daily Variety, Jan. 10).

Also performing solidly for Fox were “Nanny 911” on Wednesday (3.9/9 in 18-49, 9.17m) and “The OC” on Thursday (3.3/9, 7.65m).

UPN topped the WB across the board, with the former getting off to a pretty good start — especially among young femmes — with Wednesday’s “Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 3.01m). Also, Thursday’s “WWE Smackdown” hit a season high in total viewers (5.46m) and key male demos.

On the cable side, VH1 enjoyed the second-most-watched day in its history Sunday, led by the season preem of “The Surreal Life” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.25m) — the highest rating ever for an original VH1 series episode. “Strange Love” followed (1.0/3, 1.83m), becoming the net’s highest-rated series preem to date.

Nickelodeon also did well Sunday night with the premiere of live-action comedy series “Zoey 101,” which averaged 3.44 million viewers. Show delivered the largest aud of tweens on the net (roughly 1.6 million between the ages of 9 and 14) for any Nick bow in nearly eight years.

At HBO, the season preem of “Carnivale” on Sunday averaged 1.81 million viewers overall, while lead-out “Unscripted” opened with 814,000.