- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Fox’s victory lap

Fox executives rejoiced yesterday over word of the network’s first-ever sweeps-month victory.

The mood, however, wasn’t as jubilant at NBC.

The once mighty Peacock network made its first-ever fourth-place finish over the same sweeps period, Associated Press reports.

Sweeps are held three times each year (November, February and May), when ratings are monitored closely to set local advertising rates.

Network rankings are set even though the current sweeps period runs through today. Fox also will win among the coveted 18-to-49-year-old age demographic that advertisers pay a premium to reach.

However, Fox’s first sweeps-month win (since the network began prime-time broadcasting in 1987) should be kept in perspective. Remove the Super Bowl from the equation, and the network would finish third, behind CBS and ABC, A.C. Nielsen said.

Still, a win is a win — helped, in this case, by not only the Super Bowl, but by the continuing power of “American Idol” and the development of a promising new drama, “House.”

Fourth-place NBC, meanwhile, has struggled particularly on Thursdays, a night it once ruled. NBC’s February viewership fell by 15 percent compared with the same period last year, Nielsen said. Last week, for instance, just two of the network’s shows were ranked among Nielsen’s 15 most-watched programs — “ER” and “Law & Order,” two dramas that are more than a decade old.

On the other hand, NBC’s trio of network competitors each received boosts from special events. The Super Bowl helped Fox, the Grammys aided CBS, and Sunday’s telecast of the Academy Awards (hosted by comedian Chris Rock) vaulted ABC.

Fueled by the Oscars, the alphabet network was the week’s clear winner, with an average of 14 million viewers per show. Fox was second with 12.1 million viewers, followed by CBS with 11.8 million and NBC with 10.1 million. The WB had 3.5 million viewers, UPN had 3.3 million and Pax TV 550,000.

For the week of Feb. 21 through 27, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Academy Awards,” ABC, 42.1 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 28.3 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 28.1 million; “Oscar Countdown,” ABC, 27.7 million; and “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 26.7 million.

Oldies but goodies

A trio of familiar women will return to TV this fall.

Former “Taxi” star Marilu Henner is coming back to ABC, “3rd Rock From the Sun’s” Kristen Johnston will soon be seen in a Fox drama, and “Just Shoot Me’s” Laura San Giacomo will co-star in an untitled WB network project, Reuters News Agency reports.

Miss Henner’s project, the comedy pilot “Joint Custody,” centers on a recent college graduate (Nick D’Agosto) who returns home to find his mother (Miss Henner) and father divorced.

Miss Johnston will star in Fox’s “Don’t Ask,” a comedy about a 13-year-old who struggles to keep his family afloat when his dad leaves his mom (Miss Johnston) for another man.

Miss San Giacomo will co-star in an untitled WB network project, playing one of four sisters navigating their careers and relationships in the Big Apple.

FX’s fast track

FX’s prime-time lineup is looking rather crowded.

The network, already responsible for such cutting-edge shows as “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me,” is adding two more dramas, Reuters reports.

“Over There,” a war saga from veteran producer Steven Bochco (“NYPD Blue”), and the crime show “Thief,” starring Emmy winner Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life on the Street”) have both been picked up.

The cable network originally intended to pick one of the two for its prime-time schedule — already well stocked with such strong dramas as “The Shield” and “Rescue Me” — but decided to go with both.

“Over There” will air first, with its premiere scheduled for July, while “Thief” is slated for early next year.

“Over There,” a 13-episode drama set on the front lines of the Iraq war, has been drawing buzz since its pilot went into production last year. The series will begin shooting next month in Southern California.

“Thief,” with Mr. Braugher as the head of a beleaguered robbery squad, will begin production on six episodes this fall in New Orleans.

Michaels’ ‘Prize’

“Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels may look stiff on camera, but he has discovered some of the biggest comedy talents of the past 30 years.

The annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor recognized Mr. Michaels and his gimlet eye for humor last year. The ceremony will be telecast tonight at 9 on WETA-TV.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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