'ER' Loses a Character, Earns High Ratings

For all the talk about millionaires last week, doctors made the most impressive single prime-time showing, as NBC's "ER" delivered the program's fifth-largest audience in its storied history, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Featuring the death of Kellie Martin's character, "ER" put up staggering numbers, exceeding tune-in for any series episode since the "Seinfeld" finale in 1998. "Friends" also posted its biggest ratings since premiere week, while "Frasier" has improved its competitive position--especially among the young adults most closely associated with ad rates--versus "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" at 9 p.m. NBC also dominated Friday with the crossover story line connecting "Law & Order" and its spinoff.

ABC still won its eighth consecutive week and holds a commanding lead in both the February rating sweeps and on a season-to-date basis--ahead of NBC by more than a million viewers per week--as the "Millionaire" juggernaut continues to be virtually unstoppable. The quiz show scored its highest Sunday rating yet, providing a boost to "The Practice," with ABC crushing the NBC and CBS movies "Little Richard" and "Flowers for Algernon," respectively.

One area of ratings disappointment for ABC remains the Monday drama "Once and Again," which received another beating from NBC's "Third Watch" last week despite a solid lead-in audience from the Jim Carrey movie "Liar Liar."

Cable Top 10

Here are Nielsen's top 10 cable programs in prime time last week, also ranked by total viewers (in millions).


Net- View- Program work ers 1. The Sopranos HBO 5.83 2. "Analyze This" HBO 5.19 3. West. Dog Show (Mon.) USA 4.44 4. Westminster Dog Show (Tue.) USA 4.37 5. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) TNT 4.27 6. Wrestling (Sun., 7 p.m.) USA 4.01 7. Rugrats NICK 4.00 8. Wrestling (Mon., 8 p.m.) TNT 3.55 9. "Ghost" TBS 3.33 10. Ripley's Believe It or Not TBS 3.26


Network Averages

Here is the number of viewers that each network averaged per hour of prime time, for last week and for the season.


Last Season week to date ABC 15.00 million 13.95 NBC 14.05 12.93 CBS 12.66 12.80 FOX 11.21 9.33 UPN 4.18 3.95 WB 3.79 3.86


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