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ABC Cleans Up With 'Desperate Housewives'

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, October 6, 2004; Page C07

Desperate housewives finally drove perennially sidelined ABC back into the ratings game, in the second week of the new TV season.

Here's a look at the week's hot and not:

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WINNERS

"Desperate Housewives." Nearly 22 million Sunday viewers, desperate for something to watch besides CBS's procedural crime drama "Cold Case" and NBC's procedural crime drama "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," flocked to the unveiling of ABC's drama about desperate housewives living on a picture-perfect suburban street. Together, they forged the biggest audience for an ABC drama series premiere since "NYPD Blue" bared its first heinie 11 years ago. "Desperate Housewives" was the most watched show on TV last week and also finished the week in first place among the 18-to-49-year-olds ABC targets. It's been more than four years since a scripted ABC series has pulled off both those wins in the same week, going back to May 2000 when Michael J. Fox bowed out of the sitcom "Spin City."

"Lost." The second episode of ABC's other promising new drama, in which a polar bear is introduced to the tropical island, clocked 17 million viewers last week -- a mere 9 percent decline off its 18.6 million-viewer-strong premiere -- to land in the week's top 10.

Fox News Channel. The most watched program on cable last week: FNC's coverage of the first Bush-Kerry debate.

"The Daily Show." The Comedy Central faux news show posted its biggest audience ever -- 2.4 million viewers -- when it went live the night of the first presidential debate for post-squabble mop-up. The show's previous record was 1.9 million viewers on the night Sen. John McCain was Jon Stewart's guest.

"Medical Investigation." In its first Friday broadcast, NBC's new procedural disease drama copped 10.8 million viewers. The next two weeks it suffered a ratings nosebleed, as viewers opted instead to make a fuss over Barbara Walters's exit from "20/20" and to give Rob Lowe one more chance at headlining his own series. With that business out of the way, last week "MI" clawed its way back up from 8 million and change to the preferable 10 million and change.

LOSERS

"The Next Great Champ." What a perfect ending to the battle between Fox and NBC over their boxing series: Fox has canceled "The Next Great Champ" after just four telecasts, and NBC announced it would unveil "The Contender" during the January repeat season rather than during the competitive November sweep, as many had expected. Last week, "The Next Great Champ" scored an anemic 4.4 million viewers; remaining episodes will be burned off on Fox Sports Network. NBC did not specify a time slot for its boxing show; producers of NBC's reality series had gone to court to try to prevent Fox from airing its show.

"The Mountain." Viewers are making a molehill out of WB's "The Mountain"; last week it fell off a ratings cliff, losing nearly half its "Smallville" lead-in audience.

"Jack & Bobby." WB's new series about two brothers who are named after the Kennedy men, one of whom grows up to be president of the United States -- on the WB series, that is -- continued the ratings tumble it's taken every week since its premiere copped 4.7 million viewers. By last week it was down to 2.5 million, leading TV Guide to conclude that what the show needed to survive was a new character, named Norma Jean.

"Father of the Pride." The new animated comedy, which NBC insists is targeted to adult viewers, last week suffered a series-low 8.1 million viewers. On the bright side, it still wins its time period among children.

"Law & Order." Wednesday's "Law & Order," airing opposite the second episode of CBS's new "CSI: NY" and the premiere of ABC's reality series "Wife Swap," scored its smallest audience for an original episode in more than five years.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: ABC's "Desperate Housewives"; CBS's "Survivor: Vanuatu," "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY"; ABC's "Monday Night Football"; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond"; ABC's "Lost"; CBS's "Two and a Half Men," "CSI" and "Cold Case."


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