washingtonpost.com  > Columns > TV Column

ABC Execs Give Thanks to 'God' -- and Halle

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page C07

About 25 million pairs of eyes were watching "God" on ABC and even more were watching "Idol" on Fox, but by bulking up on "CSIs," the Eye Network managed to snag the biggest average audience for the week anyway.

Here's a look at the week's powerful and weak:


Halle Berry starred in "Their Eyes Were Watching God," which drew the best ratings for a made-for-TV movie in five years. (Vivian Zink -- ABC)



WINNERS

"Their Eyes Were Watching God." Nearly 25 million pairs of them, though we suspect they were watching Halle Berry. ABC's latest brought-to-you-by-Oprah flick was the most watched movie on any network since CBS's December-December romance "One Special Night," starring Julie Andrews and James Garner, more than five years ago. It's also Oprah Winfrey's biggest ABC flick audience since "Before Women Had Wings" in November '97.

"NYPD Blue" wrapped up its 12-season run with 16.1 million viewers on Tuesday -- the cop drama's largest audience in more than three years. The tribute that preceded it drew ABC's largest non-sports audience in the time slot since May 2002 -- more than 13 million.

"Law & Order: Trial by Jury." In "ER's" Thursday 10 p.m. hour, NBC's fourth "Law & Order" drama opened with more than 17 million viewers -- the franchise's biggest opening haul ever. Predictably, the show's numbers went down the next night when it moved to its regular Friday time slot, though its 14.5 million viewers still constituted NBC's largest audience in the time period in about two years, excluding Olympics coverage.

"America's Next Top Model." The UPN reality series started its fourth cycle with its biggest opening audience yet -- 5.1 million viewers.

LOSERS

Fox's Friday. Fox logged its smallest Friday prime-time audience since at least 1991 with a losers' parade that included an infomercial for the flick "Robots," which averaged a lousy 2.7 million viewers, and "Jonny Zero," which fell to a lowest-yet 2.3 million.

"Starlet." Hope Faye Dunaway didn't think this reality series for WB would jump-start her career; it's the least-watched series opening of the TV season on any network, with just 1.6 million bothering to watch.

"Bachelorette." ABC's reality series suffered a smallest-ever finale audience of just 8.4 million viewers. Ironically, immediately after, the post-finale blah-blah show "Bachelorette: After the Final Rose" logged that franchise's biggest audience ever -- 11.3 million viewers. This is probably because bachelorette Jen shrewdly saved her final bit of guy-rejecting for the blah-blah show.

"Deadwood." HBO's critically heralded western opened its second season with an average of 2.79 million viewers Sunday around 9 p.m. Its first season finale had opened with 3.21 million and the series premiered with 5.79 million.

"The Contender." NBC's oft-delayed boxing competition finally debuted this Monday to less than great results, triggering a tsunami of boxing puns from competitors and The Reporters Who Cover Television: " 'The Contender' failed to deliver many solid punches," " 'Contender' takes first-round beating," "Sylvester Stallone and Fox's Oscar De La Hoya have been knocked out by dismal ratings." The much-ballyhooed preview bagged a disappointing 8 million viewers, though it did manage to win its time period among men 18 to 34.

"Fat Actress." Thin crowd. On the other hand, 924,000 viewers is a good number for the premiere telecast of a Showtime series. Still, given all the hype, you'd think it would have cracked the million mark in its first telecast last night. For comparison, the premiere of Showtime's "The L Word" weighed in with about 930,000 viewers, but "Fat" crushed "Huff," which had opened with about 460,000. "Fat" wasn't helped much by its "Super Size Me" lead-in, which produced a measly 383,000 viewers; in its replay later last night, "Fat Actress" drew 349,000.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday "American Idol"; CBS's "CSI"; ABC's Sunday flick "Their Eyes Were Watching God"; Fox's Wednesday and Monday "American Idol"; CBS's "Survivor: Palau"; ABC's "Lost" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"; NBC's Thursday unveiling of "Law & Order: Trial by Jury"; and ABC's "NYPD Blue" series finale.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company