With Tim Allen and the gang at "Home Improvement" saying so long, ABC won its fourth week of the season with an average of 10.95 million viewers. Too bad most of the week fell outside the official TV season, which ended last Wednesday.
Here's a look at the week's brass and tin:
"Home Improvement." Five years ago, "Home Improvement" was the No. 1 show, averaging 36.3 million viewers each week. Last Tuesday, nearly all of them--35.5 million--tuned in to say goodbye to the Taylor family. The series's 90-minute swan song was the week's most watched show, the most watched sitcom episode on any network this season and the fourth-highest series sign-off of the past decade--behind only the outta-here episodes of "Seinfeld" (76.3 million), "Cheers" (80.4 million) and "The Cosby Show" (44.4 million). Not only did Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor go out with a bang, but the ABC Tuesday shows that followed enjoyed a brilliant halo effect, including:
"Spin City." Immediately following the "Home Improvement" bow-out, this sitcom's season finale bagged its biggest audience in more than three years, landing in the No. 2 spot for the week. Also:
"NYPD Blue." Following "Spin City," the season finale of "NYPD Blue" enjoyed its best performance ratings-wise since the death of Jimmy Smits's character with a story line that featured the death of Sharon Lawrence's character (Lawrence has gone off to CBS to try again at headlining a sitcom). Overall, "Home Improvement," "Spin City" and "NYPD Blue" gave ABC its most watched Tuesday since March 3, 1992, when its lineup included a "Happy Days" reunion and episodes of "Full House," "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne."
"Mad About You." NBC's sitcom wrapped its seven-year, 164-episode run with its biggest audience since Sept. 23, 1997. That's no small feat considering it aired at 9 p.m. Monday, opposite Fox's "Ally McBeal" season finale, which it soundly beat.
"Law & Order." This hot-again NBC series nabbed the biggest season-finale audience in its nine-year history.
"Everybody Loves Raymond." More people watched this CBS season finale, in a special 8 p.m. Monday broadcast, than ABC's season wrappers "Dharma & Greg" or "The Drew Carey Show" or NBC's "Just Shoot Me."
"Suddenly Susan." The finale of the struggling NBC Monday sitcom got its biggest audience of the season--12.4 million viewers--with an episode that included a tribute to the late David Strickland.
"Cleopatra," Part 2. Nearly lost in all the season- and series-finale hype, Part 2 of "Cleo" nailed ABC's best performance in the Monday 9-to-11 p.m. time slot since "And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" in February.
"Thanks of a Grateful Nation." It was NBC's turn to air this joint venture with Showtime; it was NBC's least watched regularly scheduled Sunday movie on record.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The previous week, Part 1 of "Buffy's" season finale averaged 5.1 million viewers; last week's scheduled Part 2 would have snagged an even bigger audience. But WB pulled that season-closing episode, which featured high school students attacking the mayor at their graduation ceremony because he's turned into a monster--literally.
A rerun that aired instead logged 4 million viewers. WB says it'll air the finale later this summer.
"Dilbert." The season finale of UPN's animated comedy got crushed by bigger fish in the Monday 8 p.m. time slot, posting its smallest audience to date.
"Moesha." Also a season finale and also creamed by its competitors, in this case "Home Improvement," the UPN sitcom suffered its smallest audience ever for an original episode.
Miss Universe Pageant. CBS's broadcast of the international trophy show bagged about 1.3 million fewer viewers than last year, when it aired on a Tuesday and with far easier competition.
The week's 10 most watched shows, in order: ABC's "Home Improvement," "Spin City" and "NYPD Blue"; ABC's "Mad About You"; NBC's "Law & Order" season finale and "Law & Order" Wednesday 9 p.m. special; Fox's "Ally McBeal"; NBC's Monday "Dateline" and "Frasier"; and Part 2 of ABC's "Cleopatra."