Some say the exits of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather from the evening newscasts they had anchored for around two decades marked the end of TV as they knew it. For the rest of us, the end came this week when NBC, the network that owned the biggest night of television for two decades, got beat at 8 p.m. Thursday by a UPN sitcom.
The premiere of the ballyhooed Chris Rock-created "Everybody Hates Chris" clocked 7.8 million viewers -- the biggest comedy number in UPN's history.
In the same half-hour, the second season of the NBC "Friends" spinoff "Joey" logged 7.5 million viewers.
"Joey" was a one-hour debut and attracted more viewers in its second half, finishing with an overall average of 7.8 million. While better than 7.5 million, that is still the show's third-worst performance -- not great for a season-kickoff episode.
"Joey" did manage, among NBC's target group of viewers 18 to 49 years old, to do about as well as it had done in May before taking the summer rerun break. (Hey, it's not great, but it's something.)
Meanwhile, the second episode of CBS's "Survivor: Guatemala" snagged just under 17 million viewers in that first hour of prime time. While that's one of the series' smallest audiences ever for an original, regularly scheduled episode, it's still gobs better than "Joey's" 7.8 million.
Which means Leslie Moonves, the guy who runs both CBS and UPN, now has both feet firmly planted on the neck of the NBC peacock Thursday nights at 8.
But that was only the beginning of NBC's bad news.
At 9 p.m. "The Apprentice" starring Donald Trump logged just under 10 million -- the first time the franchise failed to break double digits (except for one clip show that aired on a Wednesday last December).
In his first half-hour, the Donald didn't attract as many viewers as had ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" dance-off results show, which posted nearly 10.5 million.
And, speaking of "Dancing With the Stars," John O'Hurley finally won the Really Ugly Trophy he so richly deserved in that competition, dethroning that little daytime hussy Kelly Monaco, who, when the surprisingly successful reality series aired over the summer, had been declared the winner, causing many viewers, and some TV critics, to cry foul.
Thanks mostly to the announcement of O'Hurley's win, ABC enjoyed its most watched Premiere Week Thursday in four years.
Against Trump, CBS's "CSI" kicked off its season with about 29 million watching. That's down compared with last year's kickoff crowd of nearly 31 million, but still about as many viewers as all of the show's time slot broadcast competitors combined.
Back to NBC's bad news: At 10 p.m. the 12th-season debut of "ER" posted its smallest audience ever for an original episode -- just under 14.4 million viewers. "ER" was no match for the premiere of CBS's crime drama "Criminal Minds," starring Mandy Patinkin (voice of an angel), which attracted 19.6 million viewers.
"Criminal Minds" did a better job opening in that best-of-all CBS time slots than had "Without a Trace" in 2002. "WOaT" bagged about 16 million viewers off of a 30 million "CSI" lead-in audience that fall.
The 2005-06 TV season officially started on Monday and already it has its first casualty. Fox has yanked its ratings-starved Wednesday drama "Head Cases" and our long -- okay it aired twice -- Adam Goldberg nightmare is over.
Six episodes were shot; if we're lucky we'll never see the other four, saving Chris O'Donnell further embarrassment for having agreed to co-star in the odd-couple lawyer drama with Goldberg, playing a hotshot lawyer who had a breakdown, and a lawyer who should be locked up, respectively.
Fox debuted the series early, so it could gain a toehold before it had to be taken off to make way for the network's big commitment to baseball and the World Series.
Last week, in its second telecast, "Head Cases" attracted only about 3 million viewers; the week previous, it had attracted more than 6 million. That kind of says it all.
Fox says it will plug the hole with the reality series "Nanny 911" for the next two weeks; after that it's baseball and after that, reality series "Trading Spouses" moves in.