1. Survivor: The Amazon, CBS, 23.3 million viewers
2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (news - Y! TV), CBS, 22.9 million viewers
3. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 18.7 million viewers
4. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 18 million viewers
5. 60 Minutes, CBS, 17 million viewers
6. Everybody Loves Raymond (news - Y! TV), CBS, 16.8 million viewers
7. Fear Factor, NBC, 16.3 million viewers
8. Friends (Monday), NBC, 15.6 million viewers
9. Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 15 million viewers
10. Still Standing, CBS, 14.5 million viewers
"Survivor," Clinton Eye Ratings
Tue Mar 11, 7:00 PM ET
By Marcus Errico
The ratings are in and this much we know: Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are no American Idols.
The high-profile, much-hyped sparring partners' addition to the 60 Minutes lineup didn't do too much to wow critics ("Borrrrrrring!" opined Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times), but did deliver numbers, propelling CBS' still ticking newsmag to its second best Nielsens of the season.
Sunday's installment, featuring the first of Clinton and Dole's mini-debates, drew 17 million viewers, up 17 percent from the show's season average and enough to land 60 Minutes at number five in the weekly TV charts.
But Clinton and Dole's low-key discussion of tax cuts wasn't any match for Survivor: The Amazon's back-stabbing or Simon Cowell's withering critiques. With NBC's "must-see" Thursday lineup in reruns, CBS' latest edition of its reality adventure series was the top ranked show for the week ended Sunday, with 23.3 million viewers, about 400,000 tube-watchers ahead of a CSI repeat.
Fox's talent competition, which saw the field narrowed to the final 12, placed two episodes in the top five--Tuesday's sing-off came in third with 18.7 million viewers and Wednesday's whittling-down finished fourth with 18 million viewers.
Overall, reality was the rage--the most watched show on each of the Big Four nets was unscripted. Aside from CBS' Survivor and Fox's Idol, NBC was led by Fear Factor (number seven, 16.3 million viewers) and ABC by its finale of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (number 28, 11 million viewers).
Still, the reality is that some reality is better than others. For instance, Fox's new Married by America proved it was no Joe Millionaire. Despite some made-for-ratings scandal (one of the suitors is really--gasp!--married), the show's Monday night debut mustered just 8.6 million viewers in 56th place. Wednesday's installment was slightly better, tallying 9.3 million viewers for 47th.
Meanwhile, ABC's sociological experiment The Family, in which a middle class clan is shipped to a Florida mansion and gets to act rich, premiered down at 51, attracting just 9 million voyeurs. That was a bit better than NBC's prime-time rehasing of Let's Make a Deal (number 55, 8.7 million).
The lone non-reality debut last week came courtesy of Fox's Oliver Beene. The Simpsons-meets-Wonder Years coming-of-age comedy set on 1960s Long Island had a solid showing, checking in at 14th place with 13.8 million viewers--just a 4 percent drop from its Simpsons lead in (11th place, 14.4 million viewers).
While CBS won the weekly ratings race (the Eye was eyeballed by an average of 11 million viewers a night), the network has to be concerned about My Big Fat Greek Life. Based on Nia Vardalos (news) hit flick, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the show seemed destined for Nielsen glory, its premiere episode scoped out by a whopping 22.9 million viewers, and its first Sunday night edition seen by 16.6 million viewers. But this Sunday's installment was down to 13.4 million, despite its big fat 60 Minutes lead in.
NBC was a close second for the week, averaging 10.7 million viewers, with Fox (10.1 million viewers) nipping at the Peacock's heels. ABC finished out of the money with 8.7 million.
As for the netlets, UPN had the most watched show (WWE Smackdown! at 76 with 6.2 million viewers) but also had the week's least watched show (Abby at 114 with 1.7 million). When factored together, it wasn't enough to beat the WB, which averaged 3.6 million viewers to UPN's 3.2 million.
Knowing a good thing, UPN on Tuesday announced it was reupping Smackdown! in a "multiyear" deal. Abby could only be so lucky.
Here's a look at the 10 most watched shows of last week, as tracked by Nielsen Media Research: