Ellen DeGeneres' on-air breakdown during the week of Oct. 21 pushed her syndicated talk show to its best showing in 20 weeks.
Warner Bros.' Ellen jumped 5% from the prior week and 17% from the prior two weeks to a 2.1 national live-plus-seven household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.
DeGeneres became upset during the show's taped broadcast Wednesday, Oct. 17, while telling the story of a dog she adopted, named Iggy, whom she then decided she couldn't keep. She then gave Iggy to her hairdresser's two young girls, who "fell in love with it," only to have the adoption agency come and reclaim the dog after DeGeneres told them truthfully that she had given Iggy away without their permission.
The resulting crying jag saw the show's ratings spike to a 2.0, an 18% jump from the show's prior-week rating.
The head of the pet-adoption agency went on to receive death threats from fans, making the whole episode so emotional for DeGeneres that she failed to tape a show to air for that Friday, requiring TV stations to air a repeat in its place.
Ellen was also pre-empted in some markets during the week due to a press conference by President George. W. Bush during which he addressed even more upsetting topics, such as the possibility of World War III, nuclear proliferation in Iran and the state of healthcare in the United States.
Even with those handicaps, Ellen still turned in its best performance since the week of May 28 and was up 5% compared with the same week last year -- the only talk show in the challenged genre to see a year-to-year gain.
Meanwhile, four other talkers were up for the week, and everything else held steady.
CBS' Oprah jumped 8% to a 5.7, with that show's host wading through her own controversy. Oprah Winfrey earlier this month apologized to parents "with tears in her eyes," according to the Chicago Tribune, after allegations of abuse surfaced at her school for girls in South Africa.
Disney-ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly, in third place, jumped 3% to a 3.1. CBS' Rachael Ray, tied with NBC Universal's Maury for fifth place, hit its highest ratings in 25 weeks, gaining 5% for the week to a 2.0. That was thanks in part to an Oct. 15 appearance by American Idol judge Randy Jackson, which spiked the ratings 16% to a 2.2. Warner Bros.' Tyra Banks was the fourth gainer, jumping 10% to a 1.1.
Meanwhile, CBS' Dr. Phil at a 4.5, NBC Universal’s Maury at a 2.0, CBS' Montel Williams at a 1.4, NBCU's Jerry Springer at a 1.3, and NBCU's Martha Stewart at 1.1 all maintained their ratings.
Among the rookie talkers, NBCU's Steve Wilkos improved 13% to a 0.9, equaling its best number yet and tying Twentieth Television's The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. That show also matched its season high of 0.9, unchanged from the prior week.
Among the magazines, CBS' Inside Edition, in second place, and Warner Bros.' Extra both scored new season highs. Inside Edition gained 3% to a 3.4, while Extra jumped 12% to a 1.9. Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' rookie, TMZ, scored its lowest rating yet, dropping 11% to a 1.6.
CBS' Entertainment Tonight, the genre leader, was flat at a 4.8, while NBCU's AccessHollywood improved 4% to a 2.4, tying CBS' The Insider, which dipped 4%.
The top off-net sitcoms were off slightly, but remained in a tight race for the top ratings spot. CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond fell 2% to a 4.2. Twentieth's rookie, Family Guy, eased 3% to a 3.9, while Warner Bros.' fellow newcomer, Two and a Half Men, was flat at a 3.8.
In fourth place, Sony's Seinfeld was unchanged at a 3.4 Sony's King of Queens dropped 3% to a 2.9. Warner Bros.' Friends rebounded 27% from an all-time low 2.2 to a 2.8. And Warner Bros.' George Lopez, another rookie, jumped 4% to a new season-high 2.6.
NBCU's Law & Order: Criminal Intent, also in its first year of syndication, gained 7% to a 1.5, a new high for the one-hour off-network strip.
Court shows were mostly higher, with the top six courts all up slightly. CBS' Judge Judy gained 2% to a 4.9, a new season high. CBS' Judge Joe, in second place, increased 4% to a 2.7. Warner Bros.' People's Court also gained 4% to a 2.5. Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis added 5% to a 2.2. Twentieth's Divorce Court rose 6% to a 1.9, matching its season high and tying Twentieth's Judge Alex, up 12%. Twentieth's Cristina's Court gained 8% to a 1.3, tying Sony's Judge Hatchett, which was unchanged at a 1.3. Alex and Cristina each hit new season highs. Finally, Sony's Judge Maria Lopez rebounded 13% to a 0.9 from a season-low 0.8 the prior week.
Among the rookie courts, Sony's Judge David Young tied his corporate sibling and was flat at a 0.9. Radar Entertainment's Jury Duty fell 33% to a 0.2.
Finally, Sony's Wheel of Fortune at a 7.7 and Jeopardy! at a 6.2 both hit new season highs, up 4% and 5%, respectively. Disney-ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire dropped 3% to a 3.0. And Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud fell 6% to a 1.7. Meanwhile, newcomer Program Partners' Merv Griffin'sCrosswords jumped 13% to a 0.9, while Twentieth's Temptation was unchanged at a 0.5.
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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.