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ABC in the end zone

NBC's 'Surface,' new Eye laffers lift Monday

An NFL “Monday Night Football” doubleheader helped ABC kick off the season a winner while CBS placed second as it began life after “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Among new shows, NBC’s “Surface” opened pretty well, and CBS comedies “How I Met Your Mother” and “Out of Practice” looked OK, but it was a tepid beginning for Fox laffer “Kitchen Confidential” and a very weak start for the WB’s drama “Just Legal.”

Overall, it was a somewhat quiet night for the opening Monday of the season, with the broadcast nets commanding a 54 share of the adults 18-49 aud compared with 57 last year.

According to Nielsen, ABC ruled primetime with a 6.2/16 in adults 18-49 to a 5.0/12 for CBS and a solid 4.3/11 for NBC’s drama lineup. The Alphabet also led in adults 25-54 (7.0/17) and total viewers with 15.8 million.

ABC was aided by a second NFL game (Giants-Saints) that resulted from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Game started on ABC at 7:30 p.m. ET, then shifted to ESPN at halftime so ABC could air its regularly skedded Redskins-Cowboys game at 9.)

Net significantly improved its perf in the 8 o’clock hour (5.3/16 in 18-49, 13.64m), winning easily in a slot that’s usually occupied by “Wife Swap.” But its regular game was on the low side (6.5/17 in 18-49, 16.10m), affected by the 4.2 million viewers who were watching the conclusion of the other game on ESPN.

Alphabet’s opening-hour strength probably took a toll on the entertainment series there, although NBC’s “Surface” opened well (3.8/10 in 18-49, 11.18m), finishing in a virtual 18-49 tie with CBS comedies “King of Queens” (3.6/10, 10.74m) and the new “How I Met Your Mother” (3.9/10, 10.94m).

“Surface” was down a bit from “Fear Factor” in the hour a year ago, but NBC has to be happy with its start, as it moved into second behind football in its second half-hour. And the CBS laffers were an improvement over the combo of “Still Standing” and “Listen Up” last year.

“How I Met Your Mother” built by 16% on “King” in women 18-34 rating (3.6 vs. 3.1), an aud CBS was hoping to tap into with its 20-something romantic comedy.

Fox struggled in the opening hour with “Arrested Development” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 4.62m) and the premiere of “Kitchen Confidential” (2.0/5, 4.33m), the latter of which placed fifth in 18-49.

That had to have some effect on “Prison Break,” which fell off some in its fourth episode (3.8/9 in 18-49, 7.96m), beaten by NBC’s returning “Las Vegas” (4.6/11 in 18-49, 12.49m). “Vegas” was off just 2% year-to-year and pulled into second place in the key demo at 9:30.

Despite an improved 8 o’clock hour, CBS saw year-to-year drop-off as expected at 9, where “Two and a Half Men” (5.1/12 in 18-49, 15.04m) slipped 14% behind last year’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” preem in the slot. And at 9:30, the new “Out of Practice” (4.3/10, 13.18m) held a decent 84% of its “Men” lead-in, placing third in demos and second in total viewers.

Hour also saw a feeble showing for Jerry Bruckheimer drama “Just Legal” on the WB (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.44m), which held about half of its 18-49 and 18-34 lead-in from “7th Heaven” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.42m). “Heaven” was down 20% year-to-year in 18-49.

UPN’s comedy block of all returning series performed nicely, racking up its best scores among 18-49 (1.7/4) and total viewers (4 million) since November 2003. “Girlfriends” led the way at 9 (1.9/4, 4.19m), and “All of Us” looked perky at 8:30 (1.8/5, 4.25m), drawing the net’s largest share of the night.

Compared with the opening Monday a year ago, UPN was up 33% in adults 18-34 (2.0 to 1.5), besting the WB head-to-head in their target demo (2.0/5 to 1.6/4).

Closing out the night, CBS drama “CSI: Miami” opened its fourth season as the highest-rated program (6.7/16 in 18-49, 19.21m), although it was down 19% from its hot start of a year ago.

NBC’s competing crime drama “Medium” (4.5/11, 12.69m) likely cut into “CSI: Miami,” as the former repped a big 45% improvement over “LAX” in the hour a year ago (3.1/8).

Each adults 18-49 ratings point this season reps 1.3 million viewers. Each adults 25-54 ratings point reps 1.22 million viewers.

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