Bad O'Brien Is Good O'Brien

The return of troubled host Pat O'Brien to syndicated magazine The Insider on Thursday, May 5 sent the show's ratings to their highest levels in two months.

Insider, the season's top-rated rookie strip, averaged a 2.8 for the week ended May 8, up 8% from the week before. The program had already been up 13% from the week before that, thanks to interviews with O'Brien in anticipation of his return after rehab for alcohol abuse.

Ratings for most of the other syndicated shows were slightly lower in the first week of the May sweeps, as temperatures moved higher and average HUT (homes using television) levels declined from the prior week by 1.09 million households, or about 3%, as more people got out of their own huts and away from the tube.

For example, only three out of 13 talk shows were up week-to-week: Live With Regis and Kelly, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The top three sitcoms and the rookie off-net strips were all lower. Everybody Loves Raymond was down 2% to a 6.4; Seinfeld was down 2% to a 5.6, and Friends dipped 4% to a 5.2.

Malcolm in the Middle led all first-year off-net shows, with a 2.9, down 9%. Yes, Dear was down 11% to a 1.7; Fear Factor faded 11% to a 1.6, and Girlfriends slipped 13% to a 1.4. On the weekend, CSI was up 2% to a 5.3.

The revival of A Current Affair, which returned to syndication in March after nine years, continues to underperform its lead-in and year-ago time-period averages. But the show is still in a limited rollout, with a full-blown launch not expected until next year. From March 21 through May 3, Affair had a 2.7 rating/5 share weighted average in metered markets.