NBC finished first on three nights--Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday--the most of any network last week. But CBS took the week, though it won just Saturday and Sunday--and neither night's audience rivaled NBC's on Thursday. How'd this happen? A WB-like finish for NBC on Saturday, including its smallest audience on record for a movie broadcast.
Here's a look at the week's smashes and upsets:
Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Reuters reported that 75 million people saw the annual money- raiser, which had kicked off Sunday at 9 p.m. and ended Labor Day at 7 p.m. Nielsen says that number represents only how many people could have seen it on the approximately 200 stations that preempted regular programming to carry the telethon. Nielsen needs a while longer to finish crunching all the numbers for a final tally. But, hey, Lewis is 73 years old, and has hosted much of the 22-hour broadcast while recovering from viral meningitis, and raised a record $53.1 million to fight muscular dystrophy, and he hasn't missed a year since 1966, and it's my column, so, by gum, he's a winner.
"King of Queens." A special 9:30 p.m. broadcast of the CBS sitcom tied one of NBC's two "Frasier"-casts as the week's second most watched comedy series, trailing CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond." That's the best ranking ever for "King."
"Grown Ups." Any time a new series attracts a bigger audience its second week than in its debut, network suits celebrate.
"NYPD Blue." The series's most watched episode this summer.
"Oz." Wednesday's season finale averaged 3.9 million viewers--the HBO prison drama's biggest audience ever. It was the No. 6-ranked cable show for the week.
"High School High." No. 67 among total viewers, Fox's Wednesday movie was, however, the week's No. 1 show among teens.
1999 Teen Choice Awards. When you think of the millions of dollars the networks are spending on coming-of-angst shows to attract teens . . . and all it really takes is a rerun of teen stars thanking their agents, moms and managers. Fox had the nerve to rerun its Teen Choice Awards, and less than a month after its first broadcast to boot. Surprise! It posted the network's highest Friday ratings among teens in more than a year. In fact, the trophy show rerun did 111 percent better than Fox's Friday summer teen average and 236 percent better than its summer female teen average.
"WWF Smackdown!" About 500,000 of its debut viewers were lookie-loos; the rest must be die-hard fans because they came back for the second week of UPN's new Thursday show, which, for the second time, meant the difference between sixth place and fifth for the week for UPN. Granted, WB is still in repeats, but it's nice that UPN is getting a break for a couple of weeks.
Any show airing on ABC at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. ABC's enormously successful money giveaway show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" was a tough act to follow last week. "Millionaire" aired Tuesday through Sunday two weeks ago; last week's Tuesday-through-Friday contenders in the same time slots all averaged between 6 million and 9 million fewer viewers. Then, there was poor John Stossel on Sunday at 9 p.m. with his audience of 6.4 million viewers, which would have been just fine except that "Millionaire" had averaged 22.4 million the previous Sunday in the same spot.
"World's Wildest Police Videos." Last week's was the Fox schlock show's least watched episode ever. I'd say that's a good sign, but the viewers probably migrated to Thursday time slot competitor "Smackdown!"
"When We Were Kings." Actually, viewers were the losers here. The Oscar-winning documentary film, chronicling the classic 1974 matchup in Zaire of heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, was the least watched NBC movie on any night on record, with an average audience of just 3.6 million. That's about 2 million fewer viewers than flocked to the fake on Thursday.
Fox's Sunday. With regular fare, it was the network's least watched Sunday since July 1993. That may be bad news for the Primetime Emmy show, which airs on Fox this Sunday. The trophy show suffered some of its puniest audiences ever during the years it aired on Fox.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order: ABC's NFL preseason football; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond"; ABC's Wednesday "20/20"; NBC's Thursday 9 p.m. "Frasier," tied with CBS's Monday 9:30 p.m. "King of Queens"; NBC's Thursday 9:30 p.m. "Frasier," "ER," Tuesday "Dateline" and "Friends"; and CBS's "Walker, Texas Ranger."
CAPTION: Jerry Lewis and Martin Short on the muscular dystrophy telethon Sunday.