The first two games of the World Series put NBC way out in front last week in the prime-time ratings game, though more people tuned in to see Alan Alda on "ER" than either Series broadcast. Boosted by baseball, NBC averaged over 4 million more prime-time viewers than second-place CBS.
Here's a look at the week's sluggers and strike-outs:
World Series. The first two games, airing on NBC, attracted 23 percent more viewers than last year's Games 1 and 2, which aired on Fox.
"Pretty Woman." Ted Turner's TBS counter-programmed Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves on Sunday night with "Pretty Woman"--the Energizer Bunny of feature films. In its umpteenth telecast, the movie, starring Julia Roberts as a hooker with a heart of gold, scored 6.4 million viewers. That's the biggest audience of any cable show last week--beating even wrestling on USA--and the biggest audience for a basic cable theatrical-cast so far this season.
"Law & Order." NBC won Wednesday night and its most watched program was a fourth-run episode of "Law & Order." Now you understand why the broadcast networks are demanding that TV listing guides no longer stick rerun tags on their programming--which would only conform them to how those guides handle cable rerun programming.
Tyson takes an extra swing. Cable network Showtime didn't make a separate show out of the Mike Tyson fight, which took up only a couple of minutes of its two-hour "Showtime Championship Boxing" on Saturday night. But the entire telecast averaged 3.2 million viewers, which is 335 percent better than Showtime usually does in the block.
"Angel." "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" spinoff continues to out-attract "Buffy" on Tuesdays and is rewarded with a full-season pickup.
"WWF Smackdown!" The wrestling is fake, the ratings are for real. "Smackdown" last week locked on to its biggest audience yet and UPN's biggest ever for a Thursday night.
"20/20 Downtown." The "hipper" version of the ABC newsmag took a turn for the better, ratings-wise, with its biggest audience in three broadcasts to date and nearly double its lead-in audience. But "20/20" Wednesday and Friday editions are doing better with young viewers; then again, they're not competing against "ER."
"Cold Feet." Do the producers of this show have pictures of an NBC exec in a compromising position? Do NBC suits actually like getting their network's smallest audience on record in the Friday 10 p.m. hour with original programming? Why hasn't this show been yanked?
"Vanity Fair." A&E has now learned never to debut a female-appeal project opposite the mother of all chick-magnets, "Pretty Woman" (see Winners). The first three hours of the Thackeray classic sank on Sunday night, with a paltry 972,000 viewers. That's 35 percent fewer watchers than A&E is averaging this season on Sundays 8-11 p.m.
"Wasteland." ABC's attempt to become WB cracked up last week with "Wasteland" losing more than half its lead-in audience, and ABC announced it's out of the Thursday 9 p.m. time slot. The network says it'll relaunch the show in December, which is a nice way of saying they'll burn off the remaining episodes during that slow TV month.
Fox's Friday. Fox pulled the plug on its Friday night lineup after its least watched Friday with original programming ever. "Harsh Realm" creator Chris Carter faults Fox's programming chief and says reviews of his show had been positive.
"Boy Meets World." The move to 8 p.m. has been heck on the Friday kid-com, which last week got its puniest audience ever for an original episode.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were NBC's "ER," World Series Game 2, "Friends," "Frasier," World Series Game 1, National League Championship Series Game 6, CBS's "Touched by an Angel," NBC's "Stark Raving Mad," CBS's "The Soul Collector" and ABC's "Monday Night Football."