Thursday's season finales of "Friends," "Will & Grace" and "ER" drove NBC to its biggest win on the night in more than a year, since the February 2002 sweep.
CBS was off its game now that "Survivor" is out of the anchor 8 p.m. slot, where a rerun of "CSI: Miami" (12.3 million, 3.6/11) got creamed by the "Friends" finale.
"Friends" 70-minute season closer averaged 24.3 million viewers and an eye-popping 11.7 rating/35 share in the adults 18-49 demographic -- the show's highest ratings since January, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research. "Will & Grace," which ran from 9:10-9:58 p.m., wrapped its fourth season with 20.5 million viewers and 10.5/26 in 18-49, beating CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (23.3 million, 8.1/21) in the 9 p.m. hour.
CBS' 10 p.m. freshman season wrap of "Without a Trace" managed a more-than-respectable 15.8 million viewers and 5.1/13 in 18-49 vs. "ER's" ninth season finale, which delivered 21.7 million viewers and 10.4/27 in adults 18-49. Based on its strong performances during the May sweep, "ER" is poised to surpass or tie CBS' "CSI" as primetime's top-rated drama series in the adults 18-49 demo for the season, which wraps on Wednesday.
ABC's coverage of the decisive game 6 of the NBA's Western Conference semi-finals, which saw the San Antonio Spurs boot the Los Angeles Lakers out of the post-season hoops action with a 110-82 victory, didn't generate much Nielsen heat. In the 55 top "metered" markets, the game averaged 8.0 household rating and 12 share.
Fox was in the cellar for the night with a rerun of its "Married...with Children" reunion special and newsmagazine "The Pulse" yielding a nightly average of 3.8 million viewers and 1.6/4 in 18-49. NBC towered over the competition with a nightly average of 22.6 million viewers and 11.1/30.