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ABC, CBS Share Honors in First Week of Season

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC and CBS split the bragging rights for the first week of the 2005-06 television season.

With big sophomore-season premiere ratings for "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" and a little help from an NFL double-header Monday, ABC cruised to victory in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic during the week ending September 25 with an average of a 4.7 rating/12 share, according to Nielsen Media Research data issued Tuesday.

That marked a 21% gain from ABC's showing during premiere week last year, and it also allowed the network to log its first premiere-week win in the demo in more than 10 years, according to ABC.

CBS easily took the week in total viewers, a feat it has pulled off at the dawn of the new season for the past four years. The network averaged 12.9 million viewers, down 5% from last season's opening salvo, followed by ABC (12.3 million, up 23%), NBC (9.9 million, down 7%), Fox (6.5 million, up 22%), UPN (4.2 million, up 30%) and WB Network (3.3 million, down 23%).

CBS was also No. 2 to ABC for the week in adults 18-49 with a 4.1/11 average, which marked a 9% dip from last year's premiere week, followed by NBC (3.4/9, down 17%) and Fox (2.8/7, up 22%). UPN stole the thunder from rival WB Network for the week in their target demo of adults 18-34, with UPN growing 40% from the comparable week last year to a 2.1/6 while WB slid 26% to a 1.4/4.

UPN's charge was led by the promising Thursday premiere of "Everybody Hates Chris" (7.8 million, 3.2/9 in adults 18-49), which gave the 10-year-old network its highest ratings ever for a comedy bow and a much-talked-about 18-49 demo victory over NBC's "Joey" and Fox's "The O.C." in the competitive 8 p.m. slot.

UPN also strutted solid numbers for Wednesday's two-hour premiere of the fifth incarnation of "America's Next Top Model" (4.8 million, 2.3/6). And at the top of the week, UPN had some encouraging signs of a rebound (compared with last season) of its Monday comedy block anchored by 9 p.m.'s "Girlfriends" (4.2 million, 1.9/4).

For WB, the bright spot continues to be Tuesday and the performance of its drama combo of "Gilmore Girls" (5.8 million, 2.5/7) and "Supernatural" (5 million, 2.2/5), which held up well in its second airing. On Monday, however, WB fell off the Nielsen radar with the debut of heavily promoted Jay Baruchel- Don Johnson buddy dramedy "Just Legal" (3.4 million, 1.1/3).

Fox had the ignominious distinction of having the first cancellation of the young season after a pathetic showing on Wednesday from the 9 p.m. legal drama "Head Cases" (3.1 million, 1.2/3) in its second airing. In fairness, "Cases" had the misfortune of going up against the season opener of ABC's "Lost" (23.5 million, 10.2/25), which rocketed out of the gate to series-high ratings in both key measures.

For NBC, which appears to still be very much in rebuilding mode after Week 1 of the 2005-06 campaign, it was a week of feast and famine.

The good news for the was the stronger-than-expected openings for the 8 p.m. Monday drama "Surface" (11.2 million, 3.8/10) and in particular the new 9 p.m. Tuesday comedy "My Name Is Earl" (15.3 million, 6.6.16). The worst news came Wednesday with weaker-than-expected premiere of 8 p.m.'s "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" (7.1 million, 2.3/7) and again with Thursday's launch of the fourth round of Donald Trump-hosted "Apprentice" (9.9 million, 4.6/11) in the 9 p.m. hour.

ABC got the week off to a good start with a rare double-header NFL bout on an elongated "Monday Night Football" telecast that also incorporated telethon elements that wound up generating about $5 million in pledges for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The primetime portion of the nearly four-hour "MNF" telecast averaged a healthy 15.8 million viewers and a 6.2/16 in adults 18-49.

The extraordinary football competition on the night made things tougher for the competition. Even CBS' hot-shot "Two and a Half Men" (15 million, 5.1/12) showed a little softness in its third-season opener as it moved into the 9 p.m. berth vacated by "Everybody Loves Raymond." CBS' new comedy "Out of Practice" (13.2 million, 4.3/10) also looked wobbly in its debut in the 9:30 p.m. slot.

ABC's good fortune ebbed Tuesday when the sitcom "According to Jim" (8.1 million, 2.6/8) got off to a weak start in its new 8 p.m. slot. The 8:30-10 p.m. portion of ABC's revamped Tuesday lineup was held back until this week to make room for the 90-minute "Dancing With the Stars" rematch (10.9 million, 2.8/7), which didn't have much traction in the 9 p.m. hour against NBC's "Earl" or Fox's "House" (13.6 million, 4.9/12).

But any sting from Tuesday was wiped out by the end of Wednesday night when "Lost" helped the new drama "Invasion" (16.4 million, 6.8/17) scare up a crowd at 10 p.m. ABC's crowning achievements of a strong premiere week came Sunday when it stomped all over the competition with its 8-11 p.m. murderer's row of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (16.4 million, 6.9/17), "Desperate Housewives" (28.4 million, 12.3/26) and the sophomore-season bow of "Grey's Anatomy" (19 million, 8.3/20).

As always, CBS shone brightest in the 9 p.m. Thursday slot with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (29 million, 10.2/25) and 10 p.m. Monday with "CSI: Miami" (19.2 million, 6.7/16). CBS had a pretty good start Friday for the new 8 p.m. drama "Ghost Whisperer" (11.3 million, 3.0/10).

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