Football puts ABC in the win column

All it took was five nights of football -- and the most-watched college football showdown since the adoption of the controversial Bowl Championship Series format -- to help ABC score its first weekly ratings victory of the TV season, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

ABC's roster of games included the season's final installment of "Monday Night Football" -- which finished John Madden's inaugural year up 4% overall, not bad given the number of one-sided contests -- and an NFL playoff game that, like the college bowls, played in prime time in other time zones.

The centerpiece, not surprisingly, was Ohio State's overtime victory versus Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, which surged 35% over last year's Rose Bowl, which saw Miami claim the title after trouncing Nebraska.

Other networks sat out much of the week with reruns, though CBS' movie "The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron" drew modest numbers Sunday.

The night also included the first of many unscripted midseason series, the WB's "High School Reunion," which got off to a reasonably good start, improving on "Angel's" average in its time slot.

Although Fox aired a thrilling NFL playoff game that extended into prime time on the East Coast, "The Simpsons" delivered only its fourth-highest rating this season.

-- Brian Lowry

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