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Hello, Brian; Goodbye, Diana?

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page C07

CBS last week took the November sweeps crown among the coveted 18-to-49 set for the first time since 1980, while comeback network ABC celebrated its first sweeps victory among 18-to-34-year-olds in a decade. But best of all, Princess Di flopped and prime-time figure-skating competition appears to be so over. This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Here's a look at the week's champs and chumps:

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WINNERS

Brian Williams. The republic is still safe, sort of, though Tom Brokaw has signed off as anchor of the "NBC Nightly News"; his successor, Brian Williams, even beat ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather during his first two nights, bagging 11.7 million viewers last Thursday on his first broadcast.

"The Librarian: Quest for the Spear." Noah Wyle is a hot nerdy librarian who's put in charge of humanity's greatest secrets -- Pandora's box, the goose that laid the golden egg, the Bill O'Reilly phone tapes -- hidden under the New York Metropolitan Library, and when the Serpent Brotherhood snatches part of the Spear of Destiny (look it up) he has to retrieve it before they gain control of the world. If you're among the nearly 7 million who tuned in on TNT, you helped make it basic cable's No. 1 flick of the year.

"Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas." America's favorite young married couple, Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, starred in this fun-filled ABC Christmas variety hour, which attracted 12.4 million viewers of all ages and was last week's top-ranked prime-time show among teens. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get out that sentence without gagging?

"[Author's name]'s The Five People You Meet in Heaven." ABC's teleflick logged 18.6 million viewers Sunday night -- the most watched TV movie since the network's "[Syndicated TV-show host] Presents Amy & Isabelle" logged more than 19 million viewers in March 2001.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Big week for Rudolph on CBS, celebrating his 40th-anniversary telecast with his largest audience since 2000. His 15 million or so viewers rivaled the audience Tom Brokaw scored with his bow-out that night on NBC, and he beat Brokaw among the 25-to-54-year-olds all the news divisions target.

"The Real Gilligan's Island." TBS's reality series opened with more than 4 million viewers last Tuesday and beat its time-slot reality competitor, Fox's "Rebel Billionaire," among young viewers. It probably helped that during the premiere, one of two people posing as the Skipper collapsed from what appeared to be a heart attack. Of course TBS, the "very funny" network, can't hope for such a stroke of luck every week and will probably have to settle for lesser ratings going forward.

LOSERS

"Diana Revealed." Can it be? Princess Di fatigue? Last March, when NBC News brought us "Princess Di: The Secret Tapes," the first public airing of the audiotapes Di recorded during her ill-fated marriage to Prince Charles, Part 1 clocked a hefty 17 million viewers and Part 2 more than 14 million. Months later, NBC News's special Princess Di unit unveiled "Diana Revealed," in which actor turned "communications consultant" to the stars Peter Settelen interviews Di on video. We're told that is a "critical part of his technique" to "inspire confidence" in his clients -- honest, you can't make up stuff this good. But this time Part 1, which aired last week, on the final Monday of the November sweeps, delivered only 8.9 million viewers to NBC. (Part 2, this past Monday, logged an equally disappointing 8.4 million.)

"[Skin-care product company] Presents Ice Wars: USA Versus the World." Are we also finally over prime-time figure skating? Last Friday, the 13th consecutive "Ice Wars: USA Versus the World" scored 7.1 million viewers on CBS, only slightly better than last year's worst-ever 6.9 million and a far cry from the more than 18 million who watched the competition during the Tonya Harding-clubs-Nancy Kerrigan glory days of the '94 Winter Olympics.

"Project Runway." The unveiling of Bravo's latest reality series, in which 12 fashion designers compete for a photo spread in Elle mag, scared up an anorexic audience of 354,000 last Wednesday, which is a shame because that dress made of corn husks was inspired.

John McEnroe. After six months of suffering, CNBC last week finally put its prime-time show starring the tennis loudmouth out of its misery. During its run, "McEnroe" averaged a mere 75,000 viewers; some nights the audience was too small for Nielsen to measure and the show officially "scratched."

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: CBS's "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Survivor: Vanuatu" and "Everybody Loves Raymond"; ABC's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven"; CBS's "Two and a Half Men" and "Without a Trace"; NBC's "ER"; ABC's "Monday Night Football" and "Lost."


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