A network hand that included the week's most watched newsmagazine, movie, drama series and sitcom trumped three prime-time broadcasts of the National Basketball Association conference championship series--and that's why CBS won last week instead of NBC, with 9.8 million viewers.
As remarkable was CBS's third-place finish in adults 18-49, beating the too-hip-for-the-room Fox network. Fox recorded its lowest weekly average since the 1995-96 season--5.6 million viewers. Will somebody tell those Aussies that the Stanley Cup Finals makes for great cable programming?
Here's a look at the week's swishes and air balls:
Original material. In a sea of reruns, six of last week's 10 most watched programs offered original fare--all sports and news programming.
MTV Movie Awards. Thursday's telecast of this annual trophy show was watched by 6.6 million--up 64 percent from last year. That puts it right up there with the week's 66th-ranked broadcast shows: reruns of CBS's "Cosby" and "Chicago Hope." Among cable programs, however, the awards ranked No. 3, behind two hours of USA Network wrestling. And the trophy show's audience is triple the 2.2 million who tuned in for HBO's highly hyped rerun first episode of "The Sopranos" on Wednesday night.
"48 Hours: Monday Mysteries." The 14.1 million-viewer average for the debut of the "48 Hours" clone was CBS's best performance on Mondays at 10 p.m. with regularly scheduled programming since the September '97 debut of Steven Bochco's "Brooklyn South."
"Will & Grace." A rerun of the new NBC sitcom was the week's most popular regularly scheduled show among the 18-49 set. It's the first time a freshman series has held that weekly top spot in the coveted demographic since NBC's "Friends" did it in the summer of '95.
"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" ABC's improv show continued to do well during summer rerun season and was a hit with younger viewers--even though it's not about teen angst and has no precocious moppets in sight. Last week it finished No. 11 among adults 18-49, No. 7 among teens and No. 10 among kids.
Stanley Cup. Fox's smallest weekly audience since summer '96 could largely be blamed on two nights of Stanley Cup Finals. Tuesday's opening game drew just over 5 million viewers; Thursday's game dropped to a paltry 4.6 million--Fox's smallest Thursday crowd with original fare in its history.
NBC's Thursday. Blame it on President Clinton--his televised address delayed the start of NBC's prime-time lineup by 14 minutes--as well as ABC's and CBS's. Blame it on the MTV Movie Awards, which was, not coincidentally, hosted by Lisa Kudrow, star of the Thursday hit "Friends." Whatever the reason, NBC's Thursday lineup--consistently the most watched prime-time roster--was instead the fifth--behind CBS's Monday and Tuesday, NBC's own Wednesday and Friday basketball coverage and CBS's Sunday. That included the smallest audience for "ER" in its history. More viewers watched CBS's "Touched by an Angel," "JAG," "Nash Bridges" and "Walker, Texas Ranger" last week than watched "ER." (They're older viewers too, NBC would no doubt point out.)
NBC's Tuesday. This lineup is losing traction fast, last week attracting its smallest audience since June 1994.
The week's 10 most watched shows, in order, were: CBS's "60 Minutes," NBC's Friday NBA playoff coverage; CBS's "48 Hours: Monday Mysteries" and "Touched by an Angel"; NBC's Wednesday and Monday NBA coverage; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond"; ABC's Wednesday "20/20"; NBC's "Frasier"; and CBS's Tuesday movie, "Barbara Taylor Bradford's Everything to Gain."