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Pre-sweeps syndie ratings slump

In the last week before May sweeps' onslaught of ratings-grabbing stunts, several syndicated shows posted sleepy performances. Perhaps saving their energy for the big month ahead, seven series hit new lows and no efforts rang up any season highs, for the period ending April 22.

Both of Twentieth Television's first-run series, sophomore Divorce Court and rookie Power of Attorney came up with season worsts. Both fell 13% from last week to a 2.7 and 2.0 respectively, according to Nielsen Media Research. Xena (2.4, down 8%) and rookies Arrest & Trial (1.4, down 13%) and Spin City (2.3, down 8%) also dropped to new lows.

To be fair, many of these shows pulling weak numbers were in repeats, set to unspool the rest of their original episodes for the season in May, when it counts. For example, Power of Attorney is bringing out its biggest guns beginning May 7, when O.J. Simpson prosecuting lawyer Marcia Clark will guest star for the week.

While many shows were down or flat from last week, some outings are deserving of mention. All four news magazine strips, whose formats call for rolling out fresh, relevant episodes, jumped in the numbers. The pack was very likely boosted by its coverage of exploding reality TV series, like Survivor: The Australian Outback and NBC's The Weakest Link, which debuted April 16.

Entertainment Tonight (5.8, up 2%) led the bunch, and was followed by Extra (3.1, up 11%), Inside Edition (2.8, up 4%) and Access Hollywood (2.5, up 9%).

Seinfeld provided another bright spot, rebounding 8% to a 4.3, after two weeks of consecutive series lows. In its third week of its second cycle, the sitcom has changed stations in 13 metered markets. - Susanne Ault