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Synde slump returns

After a couple of weeks of surging ratings - a comeback off December's election disruptions - several syndicated series came back down to Earth for the period ending Jan. 7. And it doesn't help that the country's TV-friendly cold snap is letting up.

Only one of 13 talk shows displayed any strength: Montel Williams jumped 9% to a new 3.6 season high, according to Nielsen Media Research's household ratings for that week. Over the last three weeks, Montel has shot up 50%.

The rest of the pack looked weaker, with four dropping by double digits, including Maury (3.7, down 16%), Jenny (2.2, down 19%), Martha Stewart (1.5, down 17%) and Dr. Laura (1.0, down 17%). Live with Regis (3.3) dropped 8% to a new season low. Group leader Oprah also slumped (6.4, down 2%), along with Springer (3.6, down 5%), Rosie (3.2, down 6%), Sally (2.8, down 7%), Ricki (2.7, flat), Queen Latifah (1.4, flat) and Mars, Venus (1.0, flat).

Most court-related shows were pleading their cases to smaller audiences than in late December. With the exception of the genre's winner Judge Judy (6.9, up 5%) and rookie Arrest & Trial (2.2, up 10%), many hit slumps, including Judge Joe Brown (3.7, down 14%), Divorce Court (3.1, down 11%), Power of Attorney (2.5, down 11%), Judge Hatchett (2.0, down 17%) and Judge Greg Mathis (2.0, down 9%). Trailing those were People's Court (1.9, flat), Curtis Court (1.8, down 5%), Judge Mills Lane (1.7, down 11%) and Moral Court (0.9, down 10%).

There was a bright spot, however, thanks to several weekly series escaping the traditionally low viewing levels of the New Year's Eve weekend. The pack's leader, X-Files (4.2) leapt 27% to a new season high. Other season bests were posted by ER (3.6, up 29%) and Sheena (2.5, up 25%).

More good numbers came from Entertainment Tonight Weekend (3.7, up 16%), Andromeda (2.9, up 12%), Xena (2.9, up 4%) and V.I.P. (2.8, up 17%). Stargate SG-1 (2.9) was flat. Other happy campers were Change of Heart (2.2, up 5%) and Blind Date (2.0, up 5%), hitting new season highs. - Susanne Ault