Not too bad, so far

Network premieres get fall season off to a strong start

This just in: Network television is alive and kicking. The story at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Indeed, across the board, ratings at the Big Six networks continued to impress at the end of week two of the 2000-2001 season. Familiar faces-Bette Midler, Geena Davis and NBC's Thursday-night gang-produced strong ratings for their debut episodes.

Although NBC's overall ratings are down from year-to-year, mainly due to tepid baseball playoff ratings, CBS, ABC and FOX gained in total viewers over last year in the early going. CBS is up (3%), or 500,000 viewers, through the first seven days of the season vs. last year, while ABC added some 600,000 viewers (6%) and FOX jumped close to one million viewers (12%).

New shows have produced bright numbers. CBS' new comedy Bette debuted on Wednesday (Oct. 11) with 15.7 million viewers and a divine demographic rating, including a 5.5 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 (see CBS ratings story on page 20). Bette topped ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in every ratings category except total viewers; Millionaire pulled in over 17 million.

The CBS newcomer that followed Midler, the droll Welcome to New York, opened with 12.7 million viewers and a CBS-strong 5.0/13 in adults 18-49. The sitcom from David Letterman's Worldwide Pants studio improved its 8:30 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday night time period by almost 100% in adults 18-49.

ABC's The Geena Davis Show, a night earlier, attracted 17.2 million viewers and held 93% of its Dharma & Greg lead-in. It also averaged the same adults 18-49 figure (7.6/19) as the veteran comedy, which had the benefit of Millionaire as its lead-in. The advertiser-free launch of Andre Braugher's new ABC drama Gideon's Crossing averaged 15.4 million viewers and a 6.7/18 in adults 18-49. Gideon's placed second in total viewers in its 10 p.m.

NBC's Thursday lineup (Oct. 12) got the week's best overall 8-11 p.m. ratings. A double shot of Friends drew an average of 26 million viewers. Emmy Award-winner Will & Grace moved into its new 9 p.m. slot and averaged nearly the same numbers that Frasier posted to start last season, 25 million viewers and a 15.9/24 rating. And network TV's top drama ER started off with 29 million viewers, down two million viewers from last year's debut.