Playoffs give an assist to Fox, CBS

Strong premieres for "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette" garnered most of the buzz in television circles last week, but NFL football also provided significant boosts for Fox and CBS, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Fox's playoff game Saturday finished behind only CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," the most-watched show nine out of 16 weeks this season. Posting its highest-rated week in nearly two years, CBS also benefited from a Sunday game that extended into prime time on the East Coast, lifting "60 Minutes" to a season high, though "The People's Choice Awards" still dropped 4% compared with last year.

Meanwhile, with "Monday Night Football" over, Fox and NBC gained some ground there last week. In addition to "Joe Millionaire's" fast start, "Fear Factor" scored a season-high rating.

NBC also drew solid premiere numbers for the political drama "Mr. Sterling," starring Josh Brolin, as well as the season's biggest audience for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" against CBS' unimpressive debut of "Queens Supreme."

TBS' made-for-TV movie "America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story" topped the cable charts with an estimated 5.7 million viewers for its prime-time showing, and FX's "The Shield" began its second season with solid ratings, averaging 4.4 million.

-- Brian Lowry

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