Late debuts do not necessarily mean a better chance for a strong start--just ask Chris Carter, whose new series debut was among last week's several disasters. CBS won the week.

Here's a look at the week's ins and outs:


CBS's freshman dramas. All three of the network's new dramas, "Family Law," "Judging Amy" and "Now and Again," hit the ground running and last week all won their time slots. "Amy" is shaping up as the season's most-watched new drama series, last week ranking No. 12 among all prime-time programs.

"Angel." "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" spinoff turned in WB's best numbers in the Wednesday 9 p.m. slot since the premiere of "Felicity," built on the season debut audience of "Buffy," came within spitting distance of competitor "Party of Five" on Fox and crushed "Party" among teens. Not a bad night's work.

"WWF Smackdown!" Broadcast TV's prime-time low hit a viewing high with nearly 7 million viewers.

"The West Wing." The third broadcast of NBC's White House drama scored more viewers than the week before, won its time slot and continued to catapult the show that follows, "Law & Order," to audience sizes nearly 40 percent larger than last year's. Thanks to "West Wing," NBC also won Wednesday night among viewers overall and, for only the third time since 1992, in viewers age 18-49. So where's NBC's full-season pickup on this show?

UPN's Friday. Blockbuster Video Shockwave Cinema moniker aside, it looks like UPN finally has got it right on Friday nights. The feature film "Batman Returns" delivered the network's best Friday audience ever with regularly scheduled programming.


"Harsh Realm." Strike 2 for Chris Carter. His new drama series was dead on arrival Friday night with a fourth-place audience of 7.5 million. That's about 10 million viewers shy of the 1996 premiere of his "Millennium." Not only did "Harsh Realm" misplace about 3 million of the viewers handed it by its lead-in--a cheesy little schlockumentary, "Shocking Behavior 2: Caught on Tape"--but it also got whipped in total viewers and in adults 18-49, by CBS's competing sci-fi drama "Now and Again." Bet some Fox suits are sorry they gave "Now and Again" a head start in the time slot.

"Party of Five." This season's debut: 8.5 million viewers. Last season's debut: 11.9 million viewers.

"Wasteland." Dead-on title for ABC's new drama series, which premiered in fifth place in its Wednesday 9 p.m. hour with just 6.5 million viewers, behind even UPN.

"20/20 Downtown." "20/20 Cellar" is more accurate. Thursday's hipped-up version drew the newsmagazine's smallest audience ever for a regular time slot, non-holiday telecast.

"Mission Hill." The problem with sneak-peeking a show back on Sept. 21 is that by Oct. 8 when it has its second broadcast viewers have . . . well, you know, moved on! So "Mission Hill's" Sept. 21 audience of 2.3 million turned into 1.5 million on Oct. 8.

"Suddenly Susan." Beastly NBC suits don't believe in mercy killings and are instead allowing this series to starve to death for lack of viewers. The Monday comedy again set a record for its smallest audience ever, and landed in fifth place in its time slot, behind even WB's "Seventh Heaven." So too did its lead-out, "Veronica's Closet," though at least Veronica can claim it built on Susan's following.

"Manchester Prep." I know, not on the schedule. But it's not ever going to be on the schedule and I wanted to get it into the ratings column just once. Fox has pulled the plug on its controversial preppies-from-hell series before it ever aired--just as Fox did with the series "Hollyweird" last season.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: NBC's "ER," "Friends" and "Frasier"; ABC's "Monday Night Football"; CBS's "60 Minutes"; NBC's "Law & Order," "Stark Raving Mad" and "Jesse"; ABC's "The Practice" and CBS's "Touched by an Angel."