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Storm and Twang Draw Big Ratings for CBS

By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 17, 2004; Page C07

Country music and world annihilation proved to be a potent pair for CBS last week as the network easily claimed victory in the weekly Nielsen ratings race.

Part 1 of the special-effects-laden natural disaster movie "Category 6: Day of Destruction" drew 19.4 million viewers, CBS's best-performing Sunday night movie since March 2002, when it aired the documentary "9/11."


Part 1 of the natural disaster movie "Category 6: Day of Destruction" was CBS's best-performing Sunday night movie since March 2002. (Allen Fraser -- CBS)

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The 38th annual Country Music Association Awards, broadcast live from Nashville last Tuesday, snagged 18.5 million fans, down more than 2 million from last year but the award show's second biggest audience in the past five years.

For the first full week of the November sweeps, CBS averaged 15 million viewers, well ahead of NBC's 11.3 million. ABC placed third with 10.4 million, followed by Fox with 7.3 million.

Last week's real-time episode of "ER," featuring an appearance by Ray Liotta, drew the NBC series's biggest audience of the year, nearly 20 million. Still, it continued to lose out to CBS's "Without a Trace." NBC's "The West Wing" also had its best numbers in more than a year, with 15.3 million viewers -- thank you, Jimmy Smits, who played a Texas congressman in the episode.

The crossover-episode stunt, popular during sweeps periods, can still pack them in. Last Monday's "Las Vegas" on NBC, which concluded a story line that began on "Crossing Jordan" the previous night, got its biggest audience ever with 14.8 million viewers.

However, audiences may be tiring of the fake-out reality show. One week after the premiere of "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss" tanked on Fox, NBC's "$25 Million Hoax," in which a woman pulls one over on her family by pretending she hit it big in the lottery, debuted to just over 7 million viewers, losing more than half its "Las Vegas" lead-in audience.

Somewhere, Donald Trump is gloating. Fellow billionaire Richard Branson's heavily hyped "Apprentice" copycat show on Fox, "The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best," interested a measly 5 million viewers last Tuesday. That's an even smaller audience than sampled the debut of ABC's "Apprentice" rip-off, "The Benefactor," which since has been pulled from the schedule.

Is "Law & Order" finally losing its appeal? For the first time since all three programs from the franchise have been on the same schedule, all three lost in their respective time periods, excluding weeks when baseball playoffs were on.

On the cable landscape, Al Sharpton's debut as a reality TV host went over as big as his presidential campaign. "I Hate My Job" averaged 775,000 viewers on Spike TV last Tuesday; in comparison, movies airing in the same time slot for the past four weeks were bringing in nearly a million viewers.

The top 10 shows, in order, were: CBS's "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Without a Trace" and "Survivor"; NBC's "ER"; CBS's "Category 6" and CMA Awards; ABC's "Lost"; CBS's "Cold Case"; and ABC's "Monday Night Football."


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