"ER" plunged to No. 21 for the week? "Everybody Loves Raymond" beat every NBC Thursday sitcom to finish as the week's most watched comedy series? "Becker" beat "Friends"? "20/20" was the week's most watched show? Has the world gone mad?
CBS won the stranger-than-fiction Fourth of July holiday week. Here's a look at the week's fireworks and mosquitoes:
"Everybody Loves Raymond." CBS's Monday series was last week's most watched sitcom, beating all of NBC's usually Top 10 Thursday sitcoms. And its companion show, "Becker," drew about 3,000 more viewers than NBC's "Friends" as America got out of town Thursday night to start the holiday weekend.
"20/20" Wednesday. The midweek edition of ABC's newsmagazine was the No. 1 program of the week, with an average audience of 12.6 million. It featured Elizabeth Vargas's report updating the case of Maryland teen Samuel Sheinbein, who fled to Israel after being charged with murder, and a profile of an aspiring young model who was diagnosed with AIDS after a brief fling. With the exception of the "20/20" Wednesday edition's Monica Lewinsky interview last March, it was the program's most watched broadcast since its premiere on Sept. 16, 1998.
"60 Minutes II." In its second broadcast in its new 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot, "60 Minutes II" emerged as CBS's second most watched program of the week, with an average of 11.4 million viewers. The original "60 Minutes," airing on July 4, averaged only 10.8 million. Not to worry; CBS has "specialed out" that broadcast, meaning the lower-than-usual number won't be counted when Nielsen figures the show's season average. CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox specialed out all of their July 4 prime-time programs; Nielsen lets them do that, making sure there's absolutely no incentive to try to attract a big audience that night.
"The Stranger Beside Me." With the hordes who usually watch the broadcast network's Sunday movies out watching fireworks instead, ABC's Monday movie, a rerun of "The Stranger Beside Me," starring thespian Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as a newlywed who thinks her hubby may be a rapist, leached up to the top of the week's movie pack.
NASCAR Winston Cup's Pepsi 400. The first auto race ever to be broadcast live in prime time scored a Saturday win for CBS and corralled the network's biggest herd of men for a July 4 weekend in 13 years. Even so, the Pepsi 400's audience of 8.1 million is only the fourth largest for a Winston Cup race this season, running behind the weekend afternoon broadcasts of the Daytona 500 (14.52 million), the Las Vegas 400 (9.28 million), the Cracker Barrel 500 (8.92 million) and one of two Die Hard 500s (8.77 million).
"Suddenly Susan." Okay, the ratings stank on this sitcom last week. In adults 18-49, Brooke Shields's show only equaled its time-slot competitor "Cosby." But NBC just announced that Eric Idle, of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" fame, has joined the cast of "Suddenly Susan" to play her new boss, and that's the best news this show has had since it debuted.
"Hoop Life." Sunday's premiere of the Showtime series averaged about 744,000 viewers--41 percent fewer than its lead-in movie, "Deep Impact." According to Nielsen numbers, 94 percent of the people who actually pay to get Showtime in their homes and who were watching TV Sunday night chose not to watch this much-hyped premiere. Now, the pay cable networks say they don't care what their program numbers are--they're all about signing subscribers--but maybe this show should've been rolled out on a Sunday when people are actually at home watching TV.
NBC's Sunday. See NBC roll over and play dead on July 4. See the network post its least watched Sunday on record.
Fox's Sunday. Ditto.
"ER." How low can this show go? Down to No. 21 last week, the once No. 1-ranked drama is really slowing down this summer. CBS's "48 Hours" beat it in its 10 p.m. Thursday slot, while ABC's new Thursday summer news program, "Vanished," was hot on its heels. At 9.44 million viewers, "ER" finished behind two other drama series for the week: NBC's "Law and Order" (10.3 million) and CBS's "JAG" (10.2 million). No dramas made the week's Top 10 list, demonstrating once again that they simply do not repeat. Remember that next time someone grouses about Fox's decision to "repurpose" Ally McBeal as a half-hour "sitcom" in the fall.
CAPTION: Broadcast live, the Pepsi 400 auto race scored a Saturday win for CBS, attracting 8.1 million viewers.