Prime time battles begin

At the end of premiere week, CBS and NBC were battling for No. 1 status, while ABC saw glimmers of hope. Of the younger-skewing broadcast nets—Fox, The WB and UPN—WB has the biggest reason to smile, scoring ratings victories on both Monday and Tuesday nights.

Even with Monday Night Football
on ABC, CBS is the network to beat on Monday night. Last week, with a lineup of King of Queens; Yes, Dear; two episodes of the Emmy-showered Everybody Loves Raymond; and the series premiere of much ballyhooed CSI: Miami
at 10 p.m., CBS took first in households in every half-hour, according to Nielsen national ratings.

NBC held up in its key demos with Celebrity Fear Factor
from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. The daredevil show won in adults 18-34 and 18-49 until 9 p.m. but then was vanquished by Raymond, which in turn handed its lead over to CSI: Miami.
That spinoff lived up to its hype with a 14.9 rating/23 share.

Tuesday night remains a shoot-out, with no network dominating. The season premiere of NBC's Frasier
was the big winner, with a 15.6/22 in households. No show was a close second, and Frasier's lead-in built a huge audience for NBC's new comedy, Hidden Hills, which garnered a 10.9/15.

NBC ran its new comedy In-Laws
at 8 and 8:30 p.m. The show built on its ratings from one half-hour to the next, giving it third place at 8 p.m. and second at 8:30 p.m. This week, NBC plans to give In-Laws
a similar shot, delaying the premiere of Just Shoot Me
until Oct. 8.

NBC is putting In-Laws
against ABC's 8 Simple Rules, which did well in the coveted 18-49 demo in its second week, winning with a 4.8/14. Life With Bonnie
wasn't as strong, taking third at 8:30 p.m. and decreasing 32% from its Sept. 17 premiere. The real test comes this week when ABC returns According to Jim
at 8:30 p.m. and premieres Less Than Perfect
at 9:30 p.m.

The Cinderella story of premiere week is The WB, whose Monday-night shows 7th Heaven
and Everwood
held strong and whose Tuesday-night premieres—third-season hit Gilmore Girls
and second-year Smallville
—scored record-breaking ratings for the network in the demos WB targets.

The network is particularly excited about Smallville, saying it is "more powerful than any show in the WB's history." Smallville
set all-time records for the network in adults 18-34, men 18-34 and men 18-49.

Wednesday night was no surprise, with NBC's West Wing
taking households and adults 18-49 and 25-54, according to Nielsen's fast affiliate ratings. The two-hour premiere of the White House drama made it tough on the debuts of two medical shows at 10 p.m.: CBS's Presidio Med
won the battle for No. 2 in viewers and households; ABC's MDs, in the key adult demos.

ABC was "thrilled," one executive said, with the performance of a double run of Damon Wayans'My Wife and Kids
at 8 and 8:30 p.m., against Bernie
and Cedric the Entertainer Presents on Fox. Wife and Kids
won in households and key adult demos.

NBC won Thursday night, with CBS its only serious competitor. Roughly half the key adult demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) were tuned to NBC or CBS throughout the night. NBC got off to a huge start at 8 p.m.: The premiere of Friends,
the series' most-watched premiere ever, scored a 20.1/31 in households and averaged a 40 share among the key demos. In the 8-9 p.m. hour, CBS averaged about a 20 share in key adult demos with Survivor: Thailand. CBS won the 9-10 p.m. hour with CSI.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.