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‘Housewives’ desperate for ratings no longer

In its third airing, ABC’s prime-time soap “Desperate Housewives” hit its highest rating yet among young-adult viewers, while postseason baseball helped lift Fox from the ratings cellar.

ABC, which languished for years without a new hit drama, now appears to have two. For the week ending Sunday, “Desperate Housewives” -- the season’s No. 1 new show -- and the desert-island thriller “Lost” ranked in the top 10 both in total viewers and in the advertiser-friendly demographic of ages 18 to 49, according to figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Fox, struggling since “American Idol” wrapped its run in May, saw a sharp turnaround last week as Boston, Houston, New York and St. Louis jockeyed in the major league baseball playoffs. The highest-rated contest, Sunday’s Game 4 between the Yankees and Red Sox, helped propel Fox to a narrow victory in young adults for the week (NBC, buoyed by “ER” and “Apprentice 2,” ran a close second). And Fox would have fared even better if Friday’s American League Game 3 had not been rained out and replaced with a movie, “See Spot Run.”

Among total viewers, more predictable viewing patterns emerged, despite Wednesday’s disruption due to the third debate between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry.

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CBS had the week’s two most-watched shows in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (28.9 million viewers) and the spinoff “CSI: Miami” (21.9 million). Although usually considered an older-skewing drama, Tuesday’s “NCIS” hit a series high among young adults for the third straight week, a particularly impressive feat given Fox’s baseball competition.

Overall, CBS was the most-watched network for the fourth straight week (averaging 12.9 million viewers per hour), trailed by Fox (11.8 million), NBC (10.2 million) and ABC (10 million).

On basic cable, the week’s most-watched program was Sunday’s football game between Minnesota and New Orleans on ESPN (7.6 million viewers). Nickelodeon was the No. 1 network in average total viewers (2.1 million).

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Here are the rankings for national prime-time network television last week (Oct. 11-17) as compiled by Nielsen Media Research. They are based on the average number of people who watched a program from start to finish. Nielsen estimates there are 277.93 million potential viewers in the U.S. age 2 and older. Viewership is listed in millions.

*--* 1 CSI CBS 28.89 2 CSI: Miami CBS 21.93 3 Desperate Housewives ABC 20.87 4 Without a Trace CBS 19.35 5 Survivor: Vanuatu CBS 19.16

6 Lost ABC 18.16 7 Everybody Loves Raymond CBS 17.97 8 Two and a Half Men CBS 17.15 9 ER NBC 16.80 10 60 Minutes CBS 16.46

11 Apprentice 2 NBC 16.00 12 Monday Night Football ABC 15.87 13 Cold Case CBS 15.68 14 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ABC 15.53 15 Baseball series (two games, Wed.) FOX 15.23

16 Yankees-Red Sox (Tue.) FOX 15.01 17 NCIS CBS 14.85 18 Yankees-Red Sox (Sun.) FOX 14.82 19 Joey NBC 13.37 20 Will & Grace NBC 13.00

21 NFL Monday Night Showcase ABC 12.84 22 Crossing Jordan NBC 12.52 23 Yankees-Red Sox (Sat.) FOX 12.47 24 Las Vegas NBC 12.37 25 Law & Order: SVU NBC 12.35

26 Law & Order: Criminal Intent NBC 11.92 27 Fear Factor NBC 11.75 28 According to Jim ABC 11.19 29 Boston Legal ABC 11.14 30 Presidential debate analysis ABC 10.90

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31 Still Standing CBS 10.77 32 Presidential debate analysis NBC 10.66 33 Judging Amy CBS 10.47 34 JAG CBS 10.35 35 Listen Up CBS 9.79

36 Joan of Arcadia CBS 9.26 37 Dateline: NBC (Fri.) NBC 9.25 38 Medical Investigation NBC 9.22 39 20/20 (Fri.) ABC 8.98 40 Rodney ABC 8.83

41 Third Watch NBC 8.79 42 NYPD Blue ABC 8.72 43 Law & Order NBC 8.65 44 Dr. Vegas CBS 8.64 45 George Lopez ABC 8.54

46 60 Minutes (Wed.) CBS 8.53 47 Astros-Cardinals (Thu.) FOX 8.47 48 Father of the Pride (9 p.m.) NBC 8.42 49 My Wife and Kids ABC 8.40 50 Clubhouse CBS 8.36

51 Presidential debate analysis CBS 8.16 52 Baseball NL Div., Astros-Braves (Mon.) FOX 7.98 53 Scrubs NBC 7.92 54 America’s Funniest Home Videos ABC 7.87 55 48 Hours Mystery CBS 7.83

56 LAX NBC 7.71 57 “Perfect Strangers” CBS 7.46 58 Dateline: NBC (Sun.) NBC 7.15 59 Desperate Housewives (Sat.) ABC 6.94 60 Extreme Makeover ABC 6.89

Wonderful World of Disney ABC 6.89 62 Crimetime Saturday CBS 6.84 63 20/20 (Mon.) ABC 6.71 64 American Dreams NBC 6.35 65 Smallville WB 6.20

66 Hope & Faith ABC 6.13 67 8 Simple Rules ABC 5.94 68 Father of the Pride (8:30 p.m.) NBC 5.88 69 7th Heaven WB 5.87 70 Father of the Pride (8 p.m.) NBC 5.85

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71 Gilmore Girls WB 5.81 72 Primetime Live ABC 5.74 73 Less Than Perfect ABC 5.63 74 Complete Savages ABC 5.29 75 WWE Smackdown! UPN 5.13

76 Everwood WB 5.05 77 One Tree Hill WB 4.83 78 America’s Next Top Model 3 UPN 4.80 79 Charmed WB 4.63 80 “See Spot Run” FOX 4.62

81 Reba WB 4.48 82 Survivor: Vanuatu (Sat.) CBS 4.46 83 Life as We Know It ABC 4.22 84 Girlfriends UPN 4.04 85 Half and Half UPN 3.96

86 Reba (9:30 p.m.) WB 3.85 Kevin Hill UPN 3.85 88 Eve UPN 3.52 Blue Collar TV WB 3.52 90 One on One UPN 3.34

91 Second Time Around UPN 3.28 92 All of Us UPN 3.17 93 Enterprise UPN 3.11 94 Drew Carey’s Green Screen WB 3.10 95 Mountain WB 2.77

96 What I Like About You WB 2.71 Veronica Mars UPN 2.71 98 Grounded for Life WB 2.58 99 Steve Harvey’s Big Time WB 2.37 100 Jack & Bobby WB 2.25

101 America’s Next Top Model 3 (Fri.) UPN 1.76 102 Charmed UPN 1.49

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Network averages

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 CBS 12.87 13.14

FOX 11.81 7.78

NBC 10.15 10.10

ABC 10.02 10.14

WB 3.95 4.05

UPN 3.71 3.46

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