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TELEVISION & RADIO

CBS noses past NBC; ABC stays in the race

November 27, 2002|Brian Lowry

Underscoring the closeness of their November sweeps race, CBS edged NBC by the narrowest of margins last week, while ABC posted an unusually competitive finish thanks to the unlikely tandem of "The Bachelor" finale and the movie "The Santa Clause," based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Viewers reliably showed up for sweeps-timed stunts last week, from a wedding on "Will & Grace" -- which helped "ER" deliver its biggest audience since the season premiere in September -- to the ongoing plot involving Niles' health problems on "Frasier." NBC's "Third Watch" and "Ed" have also attracted their highest ratings this fall.

ABC's "The Pennsylvania Miners' Story" and CBS' "Martin and Lewis" drew respectable numbers in an old-fashioned battle of Sunday-night movies, as NBC countered with the feature "Runaway Bride." Despite that competition, HBO channels amassed more than 11 million viewers during "The Sopranos."

Similarly, Fox's "The Simpsons" drew its biggest audience since March 2001 going up against two family-oriented movies -- "Santa Clause" and the WB's telecast of "The Wizard of Oz." Viewing dropped sharply, however, for "King of the Hill" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

In addition to trouncing CBS' "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show," "The Bachelor" held "The West Wing" and "Law & Order" to season-low ratings. The show's halo effect also carried over to the sitcom preceding it, ABC's "George Lopez Show," which posted its highest rating yet.

Brian Lowry

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