NEW YORK – Not every new television series is a championship contender.
The ultimate referee is Nielsen Media Research (search). Despite a strong year for a handful of new network programs, last week's prime-time rankings illustrated how difficult it can be to entice viewers with the promise of something new.
The John Stamos comedy "Jake in Progress," (search) for instance, failed to take advantage of the best time slot ABC could offer.
Back-to-back episodes were presented in the hour that "Desperate Housewives' usually occupies, and managed barely more than half the audience that show typically draws.
The premiere episode had 14 million viewers and the second one 12 million. Considering the preceding "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" had an audience of 18.4 leading into it, a lot of channel changing was taking place.
Partly as a result, ABC fell to fourth in the weekly standings among viewers and younger fans.
NBC's highly anticipated boxing series "The Contender" (search) was seen by 8.9 million people in a Thursday showcase, or half what "ER" does in the same Thursday time slot. Its Sunday audience of 6.7 million was barely more than a third of what Ty Pennington drew to redo a house.
No one was laughing for the debut of Kelsey Grammer's "Sketch Show" (search) on Fox, which had one of that network's smallest audiences.
The WB's "Starlet" (search) reality series had a mediocre start, and two repeats of the show had the network's lowest ratings for the week.
The ABC drama "Blind Justice" (search) had a strong but not overwhelming start, helped by a curiosity to see what "NYPD Blue" co-creator Steven Bochco had for an encore.
CBS won the week, averaging 12.5 million viewers in prime time (8.1 rating, 13 share). Fox was second with 11.1 million (6.7, 11) and easily won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. NBC had 9.6 million (6.4, 10), ABC 8.5 million (5.5, 9), UPN 3 million (2.0, 3), the WB 2.6 million (1.8, 3) and Pax TV 580,000 (0.4, 1).
Dan Rather had a solid send-off at CBS, with 9.2 million people watching his prime-time retrospective special.
Rather's exit heated up the evening news race. The "CBS Evening News" scored a rare ratings win on Rather's last night last Wednesday, Nielsen said.
It helped tighten up the weekly race, won by NBC's "Nightly News" with 9.8 million viewers (6.9 rating, 13 share). ABC's "World News Tonight" had 9.6 million viewers (6.7, 13) and the "CBS Evening News" had 8.7 million (6.1, 11).
A ratings point represents 1,096,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 109.6 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of March 7-13, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 29.4 million; "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 27.7 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 26.9 million; "American Idol" (Monday), Fox, 23.9 million; "Without a Trace," CBS, 23.3 million; "Survivor: Palau," CBS, 21.8 million; "CSI: Miami," CBS, 21.7 million; "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," ABC, 18.4 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 17.4 million; "Cold Case," CBS, 16.6 million.