Originally created 10/07/04

ABC's "Desperate Housewives" gets top ratings



NEW YORK - Until the premiere of "Desperate Housewives," the last time ABC scaled the television ratings summit with a scripted series, it was with a show that no longer exists.

The dark suburban comedy was seen by 21.6 million viewers on Sunday, the most popular show of the week. The last ABC series at the top was "The Practice" three years ago, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The second episode of ABC's "Lost" was seen by 17 million viewers on Wednesday, then another 8.8 million when the network repeated the first two on Saturday.

Although CBS was the most popular network again, ABC won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic most craved by advertisers. The last time ABC won in that category so early in a TV season was 10 years ago.

"There are surprises in every television season, and we're happy to be on the upside of a couple of them," said Steve McPherson, ABC entertainment president.

McPherson got his job last spring and is benefiting from the unexpected success of shows developed by former ABC executives Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne.

ABC can thank George Bush and John Kerry for some of its success last week. Chances are, "Desperate Housewives" would not have been the week's No. 1 show if the presidential debate hadn't wiped out part of strong Thursday lineups on CBS and NBC.

NBC finished a disappointing third for the week, with no show reaching higher than No. 13 in the rankings. That was "The Apprentice 2," which drew a below-average audience of 14.7 million viewers because it had to be switched to Wednesday because of the debate.

The return of "American Idol" in January can't come soon enough for Fox. Not a single Fox show was seen by more than 8 million viewers, Nielsen said. Its most popular program, "Trading Spouses," ranked No. 53 for the week.

The poor start has already claimed one casualty: Fox announced that its boxing reality series, "The Next Great Champ," was being shuffled off to Fox Sports Net. Last week's edition had only 4.4 million viewers.

On cable's Comedy Central, "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart had its biggest audience ever the night of the Bush-Kerry debate. The 2.4 million viewers were a half-million more than the series' previous record, Nielsen said.

For the week, CBS averaged 12.3 million viewers (8.2 rating, 13 share), ABC had 10.8 million (7.1, 12), NBC had 9.7 million (6.5, 11), Fox had 5 million (3.4, 5), the WB had 4 million (2.7, 4), UPN had 3.1 million (2.2, 4) and Pax TV had 660,000 (0.5, 1).

NBC's "Nightly News" has been dominant as anchor Tom Brokaw heads toward retirement, winning the evening news race with an average of 9.7 million viewers (6.9 rating, 15 share). ABC's "World News Tonight" had 8.4 million viewers (5.9, 12).

The "CBS Evening News," with embattled Dan Rather, averaged 6.7 million viewers (4.8, 10), a 10 percent drop from last year, Nielsen said.

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.

Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen Media Research for Sept. 27-Oct. 3. Top 20 listings include the week's ranking, with viewership for the week and season-to-date rankings in parentheses. An "X" in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation.

1. (X) "Desperate Housewives," ABC, 21.6 million viewers.

2. (9) "Survivor: Vanuatu," CBS, 19.9 million viewers.

3. (2) "CSI: Miami," CBS, 19.7 million viewers.

4. (6) "CSI: NY," CBS, 19.5 million viewers.

5. (5) "NFL Monday Night Football: Dallas at Washington," ABC, 19.4 million viewers.

6. (7) "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, 18.7 million viewers.

7. (8) "Lost," ABC, 17 million viewers.

8. (10) "Two And a Half Men," CBS, 16.6 million viewers.

9. (X) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 16.4 million viewers.

10. (15) "NFL Monday Showcase," ABC, 15.2 million viewers.

11. (X) "Cold Case," CBS, 15 million viewers.

12. (24) "60 Minutes," CBS, 14.9 million viewers.

13. (X) "The Apprentice 2," (Wednesday), NBC, 14.7 million viewers.

14. (17) "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," ABC, 14.5 million viewers.

15. (X) "Navy NCIS," CBS, 14.3 million viewers.

16. (11) "Joey," NBC, 13.6 million viewers.

17. (X) "Decision '04: Presidential Debate Analysis," NBC, 13.4 million viewers.

18. (X) "Boston Legal," ABC, 13.1 million viewers.

19. (15) "Law & Order: SVU," NBC, 13 million viewers.

20. (12) "Law & Order," NBC, 12.9 million viewers.