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ABC Back on Top, Gilmore Back for Seconds, 03.21.01 ...

Old media spin: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is a tired game show that's bleeding young viewers--a fading fad that will soon assume its rightful place alongside Card Sharks reruns on the Game Show Network.

New spin: Young viewers be damned, 21.3 million people would still rather watch Regis than The Lone Gunmen.

For all the grief ABC endures over its once-unstoppable quizzer, the network managed to get some retribution this week as its prime-time staple pushed it to the top of the ratings heap. Thanks to Millionaire, and a crossover episode between The Practice and Gideon's Crossing, ABC averaged 12.2 million viewers to beat both CBS (with its special March Madness schedule) and NBC (despite a Survivor-less Thursday night), according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC's rookie med drama Gideon's Crossing pulled in 13.6 million viewers last Monday to notch its best numbers since the October premiere. Then again, maybe viewers were just tricked into thinking they were watching The Practice: The crossover episode featured Andre Braugher's character consulting Practice patient Camryn Manheim.

NBC, meanwhile, pulled out its own first-place win among adults 18-49--the demographic advertisers drool over--thanks to new episodes of its Thursday-night ha-ha lineup, which featured a special episode of The Weber Show guest-starring ER doc Anthony Edwards as an aging rock 'n' roller.

The Peacock managed its first-place win despite another downright pathetic performance of the XFL--which, with all of 2.2 million viewers, plummeted another 23 percent lower than its previous record two weeks ago, due to competition from CBS' college basketball coverage.

Saturday's XFL broadcast has now tied with a 1997 ABC News special to become the lowest-rated prime-time program on a major network in TV history. (To put this feat in perspective, popular XFL character "He Hate Me" will now officially become "He Loathe Me. He Really, Really Loathe Me.")

Over on CBS, NCAA men's basketball took over Thursday night, as preliminary hoops battles averaged 9 million viewers against Friends and its sitcom brethren. Survivor: The Australian Outback, meanwhile, didn't seem damaged by its temporary move to Wednesdays, as the show once again landed in first place for the week with 28.5 million viewers.

On Monday night, CBS preempted Becker to show off its new comedy Some of My Best Friends, which lured 12 million viewers and marked a 178 percent boost over its performance the previous week. While that might seem wildly successful, My Best Friends' numbers actually marked a 27 percent drop from Becker's season average in the same spot--and the sitcom held onto just 73 percent of Everybody Loves Raymond's lead-in audience.

Fox, meanwhile, appears to have found another ripe victim for its sci-fi "Slot of Death"--Fridays at 9 p.m.--as X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen tumbled in its new time period, just like Freakylinks and Harsh Realm before it. Proving that viewers weren't too anxious to follow the series to its new home, Gunmen sank 23 percent Friday (5.4 million viewers), before jumping back up to 8.9 million viewers in Sunday's X-Files time slot.

Overall, ABC placed first in households with an 8.3 rating and 14 share, followed by CBS with 11.3 million viewers (7.8 rating/13 share) and NBC with 10 million (6.9 rating/12 share). Fox settled for fourth place with 8.6 million viewers (5.4 rating/9 share), but nabbed a second-place tie with ABC among young-adult viewers.

A ratings point represents 1,022,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 102.2 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of turned-on TVs tuned to a particular show.

Among the junior nets, UPN once again managed to top the WB in viewers (3.4 million vs. 3.2 million) and adults 18-49 (1.4 rating/4 share vs. 1.3 rating/3 share), but tied in households (2.2 rating).

In a bit of non-ratings news, the WB has decided to hold onto two of its rookies. The Frog Network announced Tuesday that its critically hailed (but poorly rated) mother-daughter series The Gilmore Girls will be back for a second season, as will Nikki Cox's newlywed sitcom Nikki. No other details about the decision were released.
Credit: E! Online

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