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Ratings grim for off-net sitcoms

The start of daylight savings didn't bring a lot of sunny news to several syndicated shows, especially off-net sitcoms that are clustered in the suddenly brighter access time periods.

With the extended days scooting TV viewers outdoors, such 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. players like Seinfeld dropped 14% from last week to a 4.2 Nielsen household score, its worst ever marks, for the period ending April 8. Seinfeld, down 19% from the comparable 2000 period, was the hardest hit of the comedies - its performance was also affected by switches to arguably weaker stations (i.e. KTLA-TV to KCOP-TV in Los Angeles) accompanying the beginning of its second cycle.

However, Seinfeld was not alone, with the rest of the top sitcoms, Friends (5.6, down 3%), Frasier (5.1, down 4%), Drew Carey (3.5, down 3%) and 3rd Rock from the Sun (3.0, down 9%) also dipping in the ratings. And rookie Spin City (2.5, down 11%) posted its lowest numbers ever.

Also on the decline, but not because of the daylight savings, include talk strips Rosie (2.5, down 17%) and Sally,/i> (2.1, down 5%), both falling to season lows. Sally's outing (25% off track from the same time last year) was her worst since Nielsen started keeping track about a dozen years ago. But star Rosie O'Donnell (her show is down 31% from the same time last year) can take comfort in the fact that she must be a valuable asset to the show - for much of the week, she was recovering from a hand infection while Barbara Walters and others temporarily substituted.

Avoiding pitfalls was Entertainment Tonight Weekend, (3.9, up 30% for the week), which rebounded after the previous period's NCAA basketball semi-final pre-emptions.
In more news of shows losing ground, Judge Judy (5.6, down 8%) hit a new season low. In the same boat were three rookies, Arrest & Trial (1.5, down 12%), To Tell the Truth (1.5, down 12%) and already canceled Curtis Court (1.4, down 7%). - Susanne Ault