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Friends in High Places

NBC's Friends was the top-rated show of the night Thursday. Back-to-back episodes of the soon-to-depart powerhouse (the first an original, the second a repeat) averaged a 9.5 rating/27 share at 8-9, helping NBC to a win for the night in the demo with an 8.9/24.

Also contributing to NBC's nightly victory were strong showings from Will & Grace and Scrubs from 9 to 10, and a time-period-winning performance from ER (9.5/25).

CBS came in second in 18-49s for the night with a 6.3/17, aided by time-period leader CSI at 9-10 (7.3/19) and Survivor's 7.3/21, giving it a respectable second to Friends at 8-9. CBS was a distant second to ER with Without a Trace (4.4/12) at 10-11.

You could have driven a truck in the space between second-place CBS and the bottom four nets. In fact, CBS' 6.3 rating soundly beat Fox, ABC, UPN and The WB combined (a 5 rating).

Even Fox characterized its performance as a "pretty average night," though it probably wasn't giving itself enough credit given the "averages" it has been getting for Idol,Simpsons, and others. Fox earned its 1.8/5 for back-to-back Tru Calling and The Swan.

ABC had a tough night, averaging a 1.7 for fourth place with its lineup of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,Kingdom Hospital and, its top-rated show for the night, Prime Time Thursday, which featured a story about losers. The news magazine drew a 2.1/6 for a show in which it attempted to snatch some American Idol cache with an episode interviewing fallen Idols and what life was like after losing.

UPN took fifth place with a 1.5/4 for WWE Smackdown. The WB didn't break a one rating (.9) for its lineup of Steve Harvey, Like Family and JKX.

The order of finish in households was NBC, 12.3/20; CBS, 11.6/19; ABC, 3.7/6; Fox, 3.2/5; UPN, 2.9/5; WB, 1.6/3.