For the first time in a decade, ABC won Premiere Week among the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers crave, while airing half of the week's 10 most watched shows among viewers of all ages. And CBS finished its fourth consecutive premiere week as the country's most watched network. But two new series on UPN and NBC were the water-cooler talk for the first week of the 2005-06 television season.
Here's a look at the week's winners and losers:
"My Name Is Earl." Yes, season debuts of "CSI," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" were the No. 1, 2 and 3 shows, but Premiere Week's greatest triumph was the start of NBC's Tuesday comedy "Earl." While other new-series premieres that made the Top 10 list basked in luxurious lead-ins such as "Lost" and "CSI," "Earl" overcame a "Biggest Loser" lead-in audience of fewer than 8 million viewers to snag more than 15 million fans, and on a night where NBC is famous for grinding sitcoms into dust (remember "Scrubs"?). "Earl" was the week's top-rated comedy, new or returning, on any network.
"Everybody Hates Chris." With UPN's biggest comedy audience ever -- nearly 8 million viewers -- the unveiling of this Chris Rock created/narrated series beat the second-season debut of NBC's "Friends" spinoff, "Joey," in the Thursday 8 p.m. half-hour among all viewers and among those 18-to-49-year-olds NBC targets. In fact, "Chris" beat all comers except CBS's "Survivor."
"Criminal Minds." The most watched new series of the week-old TV season is the Mandy-Patinkin-profiles-psycho-killers drama, which snared 19.6 million viewers in the best of all possible time slots, Thursday at 10, following "CSI" and its gargantuan audience of more than 29 million.
"Invasion." The other freshman series premiere to crack the Top 10 among all viewers, ABC's aliens-are-among-us drama copped more than 16 million viewers in the plush post-"Lost" Wednesday 10 p.m. slot. That's ABC's best showing there since it married off reality series serial star Trista to that poor sweet Ryan.
"Head Cases." The season's first cancellation, this Chris O'Donnell-Adam Goldberg odd-couple lawyer drama was put out of its misery by Fox after it plunged from 6 million to 3 million viewers in its first two broadcasts.
Martha Stewart. Her ballyhooed "Apprentice" debut wilted like an orchid repotted in soil instead of fir bark and charcoal and put in an area with less than 50 percent humidity. Only about 7 million viewers tuned in Wednesday night. Then, on Sunday, CBS's Stewart bio-flick "Martha Behind Bars" logged a puny 7.5 million -- pale as creme fraiche compared with the nearly 13 million the CBS Sunday flick opened with last fall when it aired "Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman."
Bruckheimer. Jerry Bruckheimer, the king of television, did not have a great week. His new NBC Pentagon drama, "E-Ring," logged only about 9 million viewers in the Wednesday slot where last October "The West Wing" had opened with more than 12 million watching. (On the other hand, "WW" had not faced the debut of "Lost" in the hour.) On Monday, Bruckheimer's new WB series, "Just Legal," copped a meager 3.4 million in the time slot where, a year and a week ago, "Everwood" had opened with 6 million tuned in. Bruckheimer, who is used to opening with numbers like "CSI's" 17.3 million, "Amazing Race's" 11.8 million, "CSI: Miami's" 23.1 million and "CSI: NY's" 19.3 million, hasn't had a week this bad since "Skin" opened in fall '03 and only 6.3 million showed up; Fox canceled it after just three episodes.
The week's 10 most watched shows, in order, were: CBS's "CSI"; ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost"; CBS's "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: Miami"; ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"; CBS's "Survivor: Guatemala"; NBC's "Law & Order: SVU"; and ABC's "Invasion" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."