When it comes to ratings sweeps, "specials" are out, souped-up series episodes are in. NBC, which has cornered that market, won last week. And, with just two nights' numbers still unaccounted for, it stands fewer than 200,000 viewers behind CBS in the ratings derby, compared with nearly 1 million last November. Plus, NBC noted, among the 18-to-49-year-olds craved by ad execs, it will win this ratings race by its biggest margin in six years.
Here's a look at the fab and the flubs for the final full week of the November ratings race:
"Friends." The most watched broadcast of the week wasn't the "Bachelor" finale, the Victoria's Secret undies show, Grace's wedding or the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis bio-flick. It was the "Friends" annual Thanksgiving dinner-disaster episode, which deposed CBS's "CSI" from the top spot it had occupied for a month.
"The Bachelor." A hefty 26 million people caught the banker from Missouri popping the question to an elementary school psychologist from Jersey. That was good enough for the week's bronze and it bumped ABC time-slot rival the CBS undies show to No. 44.
"Will & Grace." NBC has finally perfected the TV series sweeps stunt. Last week's episode of "Will & Grace" featured not just a wedding, it had a wedding and Katie Couric. Is it any wonder the episode scored the series's third biggest audience ever -- more than 24 million viewers -- and ranked No. 5 for the week?
"The Wizard of Oz." A movie made in 1939 handed WB its biggest Sunday audience ever (7.6 million viewers), its best 18-to-49 stats ever on a Sunday and its biggest movie audience ever on any night.
"Victoria's Secret Fashion Show." Only 10.5 million people caught this year's highly hyped skivvies extravaganza -- down a couple million from last year's. CBS chief Les Moonves said yesterday he has no regrets about airing the show, calling it "an hour lark" during CBS's sweeps phone news conference.
"Birds of Prey." WB made it official during its sweeps phone news conference: The "Birds of Prey" goose is cooked.
"Bernie Mac." Critics cried foul when Fox moved its Bernie Mac sitcom opposite ABC's Damon Wayans comedy "My Wife and Kids," arguing that shows with African American casts should not be scheduled against each other. Since then Wayans has stomped Mac; last week Mac's show copped about 8 million viewers to Wayans's 13 million and change. Yesterday, Fox announced it will move Mac from 8 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays in January and give it an "American Idol" lead-in. "American Idol" will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 21; the voting results broadcast will air Wednesdays at 8:30 right before "Mac."
"Providence." You know how NBC promos for weeks have been telling you that this show will end its life on Dec. 20? Well, never mind -- maybe. Yesterday NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker noted that those on-air promos no longer refer to the "series finale" -- just the "finale" on Dec. 20. Zucker says the decision to kill the show was premature and that it may return next season -- or not. He says he will decide later.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order: NBC's "Friends"; CBS's "CSI"; ABC's "The Bachelor" finale; NBC's "ER," "Will & Grace" wedding episode and "Will & Grace" outtakes special; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Survivor: Thailand"; and NBC's "Frasier" and "Law & Order."