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Correction to This Article
The NAACP Image Awards were hosted by Chris Tucker, not Chris Rock, as reported in the March 30 TV Column.

Hoops Help CBS Slam ABC's 'Housewives,' Fox's 'Idol'

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page C07

ABC brought back "Desperate Housewives" and Fox scored an extra hour of "American Idol." But CBS won the ratings race last week with the most-watched NCAA basketball tourney in a decade -- though none of that play made the week's top 10 (unless you include Sunday's Kentucky vs. Michigan State overrun, which we don't).

Here's a look at the week's slam-dunks and fouls:


Good-looking docs Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh and T.R. Knight share a laugh amid the struggles of "Grey's Anatomy," ABC's midseason medical drama. (Richard Cartwright -- ABC)

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WINNERS

"Grey's Anatomy." ABC's hot-chick-docs-in-training show is this season's second-ranked drama premiere among young viewers, behind "Desperate Housewives." And it is this season's only midseason launch to finish in the top 10 its debut week (NBC's "Medium" was No. 11 the week it opened).

NCAA play. Four regional finals over the weekend copped an average of 13.66 million viewers -- about 44 percent more than last year's same games and the most watched regionals since 1993, CBS says. The tournament as a whole, including play outside prime time, is averaging just under 10 million viewers -- the best since '94.

"American Idol." Fox had to rerun all 11 of Tuesday's performances on Wednesday after the show posted three wrong numbers for telephone voting. In so doing it came up with the week's third-most-watched program, behind Tuesday's "Idol" and Sunday's "Desperate Housewives."

"The Office." Thanks to the "Idol" phone number mix-up, NBC's highly hyped unveiling of "The Office" battled the premiere of Fox's sitcom "Life on a Stick" on Thursday. But while "Stick" enjoyed a hefty "Idol" lead-in of 20.2 million viewers and "Office" settled for an "Apprentice" lead-in of less than 12 million, "Office" snapped "Stick," 11.2 million viewers to 9.3 million.

"Kojak." USA premiered its remake, starring Ving Rhames, of the 1970s series and bagged 4.5 million viewers -- the most-watched series on cable last week.

"Nancy Grace." CNN Headline News's mouth that roared delivered her most-watched telecast since her Feb. 21 debut last Wednesday -- 661,000 viewers. Overall, "Nancy Grace" nearly tripled "Headline News's" 8 p.m. audience in the same week a year ago.

"ER." Sure, NBC's aged medical show was the third-ranked doc drama last week, behind whippersnappers "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC and "House" on Fox. But "ER" snagged only about 2 million fewer viewers than "House" and 1 million fewer than "GA" -- and both freshman series enjoyed enormous lead-in audiences compliments of "Idol" and "Housewives," while "ER" soldiered on with an "Office" lead-in of 11 million and change.

LOSERS

"The Osbournes." Out with a whimper, aka 2.1 million viewers for the series finale last Monday. Had the clan bowed out at the end of their first season like they ought, they would have wrapped up with a whopping crowd of 7.3 million and we'd still be talking about the reality-TV phenomenon. TV is all about knowing when to call it quits.

"Chasing Farrah." TV Land's being-Farrah-Fawcett reality series opened with 824,000 viewers Wednesday. Its "Leave It to Beaver" lead-in logged 1.2 million viewers. And younger viewers? Farrah snagged 446,000 18- to 49-year-olds to Beaver's 429,000.

"Third Watch." "Bye-bye," NBC said this week; the series won't be back for another season.

"Point Pleasant." "So long," added Fox, turning its back on the low-rated devil drama.

"NAACP Image Awards." Chris Rock hosted; Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Jamie Foxx, Prince, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West showed up, and yet this trophy show mustered only about 4.4 million viewers Friday on Fox -- its smallest audience since 2000.

The week's 10-most-watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday "American Idol"; ABC's return of "Desperate Housewives"; Fox's Wednesday "American Idols" do-over show and Thursday results show; CBS's Wednesday "Survivor: Palau" and "CSI: Miami"; Fox's "House"; CBS's "CSI: NY"; and ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Grey's Anatomy" premiere.


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