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Fast Track

Sexy Sendoff

HBO kissed Sex and the City goodbye last Sunday night to the show's biggest audience of the season.

The series finale attracted 10.6 million viewers with a 6.5 national household rating and a 10 share, according to Nielsen Media Research, good enough for third place among all networks, broadcasting and cable.

In the HBO-only universe of about 30 million subs, Sex collected a 22 household rating and 28 share. Over its final eight episodes, the show averaged 6.1 million viewers.

They Came To Sing Her Praise

The Broadcasters' Foundation, which gives away $250,000 a year to help indigent or ill broadcast veterans get by, honored BMI President and CEO (and foundation) board member Frances W. Preston at its black tie dinner last week in New York. Here, she's flanked by Phil Lombardo (l), chairman of the group and Citadel Communications' president, and the foundation's president Gordon Hastings.

Later she was serenaded by Michael Bolton and lauded by Isaac Hayes and many others. She joked that all the kind words sounded like eulogies: "I was sitting there at the back of the hall, and I thought, my God, you died! Such beautiful speeches!"

The Squared Circle

Last week featured pugs aplenty starting with NBC, which landed a knockout punch by beating ABC, CBS, and Fox to Mark Burnett's new pugilistic reality show, The Contender. NBC will pay around $2 million per episode, enough to scare off the other networks. The Contender, from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester Stallone, will follow a nationwide search for the next Muhammed Ali. ...

The bell hadn't rung yet for the Peacock. NBC, Telemundo, and boxing promoter Main Events expanded their Saturday-afternoon package to five weeks this spring. The Budweiser-sponsored series, which airs on both networks, had been slated for only three weeks. ...

But wait, there's more. HBO boxing host Jim Lampley is jumping into the ring. His Crystal Spring Productions, with New Wave Entertainment, has developed a series he's starting to shop to broadcast and cable networks. Hosted by two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman, the show will follow a group of heavyweight contenders as they live and train together in search of a championship belt.

Programming Notes

Premium channel Showtime will delve into the Catholic Church's child-abuse scandal and cover-up in upcoming original movie Our Fathers. It's based on a book by Newsweek editor David France. ...

ABC newcomer The D.A. will take over 20/20's time slot for four weeks starting Friday March 19. The newsmagazine will move to Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET before returning to its regular time slot on April 16. ...

Lifetime is picking up original drama Wild Card for a sophomore season. The series, starring Joely Fisher, will return in August with 18 new episodes. In its first season, Wild Card averaged 2.1 million viewers and a 2.0 household rating. No word yet if freshman drama 1-800-Missing will be renewed. It's on a different production timetable.