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Fresh Syndicated Talk Fares Best

Talk shows had syndication’s best ratings stories to tell in the week ending Dec. 14, even though every TV station in Chicago, the number-three market, preempted its regular programming to air coverage of the arrest of Illinois Gov. Roy Blagojevich.

Talkers running fresh episodes seemed to fare better than shows airing strictly repeats, which was most of them. NBC Universal’s Martha Stewart, just renewed for season five, had the largest percentage increase of any show in first run, gaining 29% to a new season high 0.9 live plus same day household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.  That rating was boosted by an appearance from American Idol’s Paula Abdul on Dec. 10 that sent ratings up 43% from the prior week’s average to a 1.0.

Meanwhile, the talk leader, CBS Television Distribution’s The Oprah Winfrey Show, saw the biggest percentage loss of any show in syndication, diving 17% to a new season-low 4.3. In second place, CTD’s Dr. Phil climbed 6% to a 3.5. Dr. Phil’s ratings spiked 21% to a 4.0 on Dec. 8 for a show on how the current financial crisis is straining marriages.

Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly jumped 7% to a 2.9, while Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres increased 9% to a 2.5. CTD’s Rachael Ray held steady at a 1.8, tying NBC U’s Maury, which gained 6%. NBC U’s Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos each were flat at a 1.0, tying Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks, which fell 9%. Twentieth’s The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet was unchanged at a 0.8.

Elsewhere in daytime, the top three rookies all were higher. NBC U’s Deal or No Deal added 6% to a 1.9, hitting a 2.0 on Dec. 10. CTD’s The Doctors also improved 6% to a 1.8, logging a 2.0 on Dec. 8 for a special pet-focused edition.  In third place, Sony’s Judge Karen advanced 10% to a 1.1.

Warner Bros.’ Bonnie Hunt, Debmar-Mercury’s Trivial Pursuit: America Plays and Program Partners’ Family Court with Judge Penny all remained unchanged in the sub-1.0 category at a 0.9, 0.6 and 0.6, respectively.

Debmar-Mercury’s off-TBS House of Payne rose 4% to a new series high 2.5. Litton’s off-Weather Channel Storm Stories was unchanged at a 1.3. Disney-ABC’s first-run weekly action hour, Legend of the Seeker, dipped 10% to a 1.9.

The magazines were flat to slightly higher, with CTD’s leader, Entertainment Tonight, up 2% to a 4.3, and up 15% among young women 18-34. CTD’s Inside Edition was unchanged at a 3.0. Warner Bros.’ TMZ climbed 5% to a 2.1. NBC U’s Access Hollywood held steady at a 2.0. CTD’s The Insider had the category’s biggest increase, growing 6% to a 1.9. A Dec. 9 show that led with a report on Jay Leno moving to NBC’s primetime sent The Insider’s ratings up 17% from the prior week to a 2.1. Warner Bros.’ Extra was off 6% to a 1.7.

Among court shows, CTD’s Judge Judy remained on top at an unchanged 4.6. CTD’s Judge Joe Brown slipped 4% to a 2.4. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court fell 5% to a 2.0. Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis climbed 6% to a 1.9. Twentieth’s Judge Alex lost 6% to a 1.6. Twentieth’s Divorce Court and Cristina’s Court and Sony’s Judge David Young all were flat at a 1.5, 1.1 and 0.8, respectively.

Games were up or steady. CTD’s Wheel of Fortune at a 7.7 and Jeopardy! at a 6.2 each were unchanged. Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire edged up 4% to a 2.6. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud rebounded 15% to a 1.5, recovering all of its losses from the prior week.

Among the off-net sitcoms, Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men remained well ahead of the pack, flat at a 5.3. Twentieth’s Family Guy rose 2% to a 4.2. Sony’s Seinfeld gained 3% to a 3.7. CTD’s Everybody Loves Raymond added 3% to a 3.4. Warner Bros.’ George Lopez dropped 10% to a 2.7. Warner Bros.’ Friends was flat at a 2.6. Sony’s King of Queens was down 4% to a 2.4.