Michael Jackson is hot; Saddam Hussein is not.
More than 27 million people watched the Wacko Jacko show on ABC News's "20/20" Thursday night -- the network's best non-sports numbers in that time slot since at least 1991.
By the final moments of the two-hour special, when Jackson was explaining how the world would be a better place if only adults would have sleepovers with children to whom they were not related, about 33 million were glued to the documentary.
ABC News paid Granada Television around $5 million for first U.S. broadcast rights to "Living With Michael Jackson," for which British journalist Martin Bashir spent eight months interviewing the pop singer.
Its run on "20/20" Thursday night was the most-watched newsmagazine since Barbara Walters's chitchat with Monica Lewinsky in March '99.
"20/20" was followed by "PrimeTime Live," which featured an interview with Bashir; it nabbed nearly 23 million viewers, beating an original episode of NBC's "ER."
Together, the two newsmags catapulted ABC to its best Thursday in well over a decade. ABC averaged 25.8 million viewers; it has been averaging 6.5 million viewers on Thursday nights this season.
ABC's all-Jacko night did not hurt the other broadcast networks too much, suggesting that the much-ballyhooed documentary brought viewers to broadcast TV who usually go elsewhere on Thursday nights. Fox was most affected; its 8 p.m. rerun of Monday's "Joe Millionaire" scored about a third fewer viewers than the previous week's, and the return of "The Pulse" lost about half its audience in its second broadcast.
One night earlier, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein got beat by Bob Barker.
About 11.4 million watched the videotaped interview with Hussein on CBS News's "60 Minutes II" at 9 p.m. A special prime-time version of "The Price Is Right," hosted by Barker, had snagged 12.8 million at 8 Wednesday night.
Hussein also got walloped in the 9 p.m. time slot by manhunting Trista, who nabbed more than 17 million viewers on ABC's "The Bachelorette."
Here's more good news: The Hollywood White House emerged victorious over the Iraqi leader. About 13 million slogged through NBC's "The West Wing" Wednesday at 9.
The 30-minute interview with Hussein that aired on "60 Minutes II" was conducted by liberal British politician Tony Benn, who said he had gone to Baghdad in an effort to prevent war with Iraq.