Last week in TV ratings land, NBC threw in the kitchen sink with three hours of "Must-See" season finales and owned the top of the Top 10. Unfortunately, there are still seven days in a week, and NBC has just one sink. Thus, ABC, still running on high-octane Regis fuel, held on to win the overall week -- again.
Here now, for your edification and amusement, the annotated primetime Top 10 rankings for the week of May 15-21, according to the good people at Nielsen Media Research. (Each rating point is worth a little more than 1 million viewers.)
1. "ER," NBC - 22.3 NBC needs to either find a gameshow more popular than "Twenty-One" or make every week Season Finale Week. Next week, the reruns start, and we get to see how last year's Thanksgiving episode fairs against "Millionaire."
2. "Frasier," NBC - 22.1 Ratings like this can be dangerous on this show. Let's all hope the network has learned from past experiences and doesn't give Kelsey Grammer another Dodge Viper to celebrate.
3. "Friends," NBC - 20.0 Does anyone else wish Chandler and Monica (and everybody else) would get married already? Or at least move out of those apartments before their Social Security checks kick in?
4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sunday), ABC - 18.2 Fourth place? This is the worst thing to happen to Regis since being merely nominated for a Daytime Emmy. He'll get over it.
5. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tuesday), ABC - 15.5
6. "The Practice," ABC - 15.4
7. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Special -- Wednesday), ABC - 15.3 This show is on ABC almost as often as Peter Jennings. What's so "special" about a Wednesday installment?
8. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thursday), ABC - 12.4 Maybe if ABC had made this one the "special" episode, it wouldn't have had so much trouble with "Frasier."
9. (TIE) "Touched by an Angel," CBS - 12.3 (TIE) "Jesus" (Part 2), CBS - 12.3 Apparently, interest in CBS' biblical miniseries dwindled between installments when outspoken religious leaders began giving away the ending of the story.
In the overall battle of the networks, ABC took No. 1, but perhaps as a direct result of that "special" "Millionaire," managed to barely hang on, with an average network rating of 9.8. NBC, riding that monster Thursday night for all it was worth, drew a 9.6, just off the pace. Next fall, the peacock will move "Frasier" to Tuesdays in the hopes of building another solid night. CBS, meanwhile, was up a little bit from last week but still came in third with an 8.8. Fox, on the strength of a rare (for the network) Top 20 performance (for the series finale of "Beverly Hills, 90210") climbed to a 6.0.
And in an interesting development in the war between netlets, the season finally of "7th Heaven" did "Smackdown!" numbers last week, pulling the WB (2.6) into a tie with UPN (also a 2.6). It should be noted that the Thursday night wrestling show's numbers were off a bit due to competing head-to-head with both "Millionaire" and NBC's "Must-See" finales.