Variety proved to be the spice of summer, as the premiere of "The Wayne Brady Show" combined with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and preseason football to put ABC back in the prime-time winner's circle for only the second time in the last 18 weeks, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
Brady, best-known from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," got off to an impressive start, as his variety show increased ABC's average audience this summer in its Wednesday time slot by 4 million viewers. In terms of other original summer fare, Fox's "Murder in Small Town X" continues to find its population dwindling, losing another million viewers and now down roughly 30% since its premiere two weeks earlier. NBC's hit "Fear Factor," meanwhile, ran out of original episodes and saw its audience drop with a rerun.
ABC's "Hall of Fame" pro football game slipped 17% versus tune-in a year ago, when Dennis Miller made his widely debated debut in the broadcast booth.
Among cable alternatives, HBO's "Sex and the City" closed its summer (six remaining episodes will play in January) on a stellar note, with nearly 2 million more viewers than last year's season finale, which ran opposite network originals in October. New drama "Six Feet Under" is also drawing solid ratings by the pay channel's standards, and TBS fared well with its movie thriller "The Triangle," edging HBO as the most-watched cable channel in prime time last week.
Cable Top 10
Here are last week's Top 10 cable programs (based on total viewers)
1. Wrestling (Mon., 10 p.m.) TNN 7.47 2. Sex and the City HBO 6.64 3. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) TNN 6.63 4. "The Triangle" TBS 6.55 5. Six Feet Under HBO 6.14 6. The Sopranos HBO 3.98 7. "Dinner With Friends" HBO 3.55 8. SpongeBob Nick 3.51 9. Arli$$ HBO 3.50 10. Rugrats Nick 3.38
Here is the number of viewers (in millions) that each network averaged per hour of prime time, for last week and for the season.
Network Last week Season To date ABC 8.21 11.23 NBC 7.52 10.77 CBS 7.41 11.40 FOX 5.28 8.58 UPN 3.09 3.59 WB 2.63 3.42