With a slate full of returning Nielsen toppers, NBC looks poised to win the fall sweeps, which ends Wed., Nov. 29. Despite competition from ABC’s ”Millionaire” heavy lineup and CBS’s new crop of dramatic series (”C.S.I.” and ”The District”), the Peacock’s Must See nights are back on top, beating the other nets by at least 8 percent in total households. Last week’s ”ER,” which boasted a guest appearance by Sally Field, attracted 31 million viewers — the highest audience for any show this season. (Field returns for this week’s episode.) November Tuesdays also belonged to NBC: ”Frasier” and the network’s ”Decision 2000” election coverage on Nov. 8 drew nearly 19 million channel surfers. ”There’s no doubt that NBC will win it,” says Marc Berman, TV analyst at Mediaweek.com. ”They’re lucky ‘Millionaire’ isn’t 1,2, 3 anymore.”
But a sweeps victory doesn’t mean NBC is having a stellar season. ”Their returning shows are doing better than they imagined,” says Paul Schulman, president of media buying firm Schulman Advanswers, NY. ”But there’s no way they could be pleased with this fall.” Schulman adds that NBC’s lineup includes no breakout new shows. ”Just because USA Today likes ‘Ed,’ doesn’t mean it’s a hit,” he says. Plus, the Peacock’s got three ‘major problem nights’: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Remember the now canceled ”Tucker” and ”Deadline”? We didn’t think so). ”Even with the sweeps win, they have a lot to work on,’ says Schulman. And come February sweeps, NBC will face bigger obstacles than ”Millionaire”: CBS’s ”Survivor II,” set in the Australian Outback, premieres after the Super Bowl next January. Here are EW.com’s sweeps picks for the upcoming week:
? WEDNESDAY, NOV. 22
”Dawson’s Creek” (8 p.m., the WB)
It’s Keyser Soze time in Capeside. In this tribute to ”The Usual Suspects,” Dawson, Pacey, and Jack face interrogation after someone plays a senior prank is played on the new principal (comedian Harry Shearer).
”The West Wing” (9 p.m., NBC)
C.J. (Allison Janney) gets an unpleasant taste of executive power when she must decide which of two turkeys gets the annual presidential pardon.
”Spin City” (9:30 p.m., ABC)
When Paul’s mom (Raquel Welch) makes a surprise visit, Paul (Richard Kind) pretends Caitlin (Heather Locklear) is his girlfriend. Evidently, Mom is blind if she believes that one.
? THURSDAY, NOV. 23
A Little Bit of Country Night on CBS
”Faith!” (8 p.m.) Country’s newest crossover queen Faith Hill performs in her first prime time special. Then Dolly Parton and Vince Gill host the ”Grand Ole Opry’s 75th: A Celebration” (9 p.m.), a high profile hoedown starring Garth Brooks, Loretta Lynn, and Trisha Yearwood.
”Will & Grace” (9 p.m., NBC)
It’s flashback time to an ’80s Thanksgiving when a young Grace (Deborah Messing) brings home her new college beau, a not yet outed Will (Eric McCormack).
”Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (9 p.m., ABC)
Who needs football or reruns of ”Home Alone”? The celebrities may be gone, but ABC is banking that turkey stuffed relatives will hunker down for the game show’s ”Family Edition,” which has parents and children playing as teams.
? FRIDAY, NOV. 24
”24 Hours of Eastwood” (6 a.m. to 6 a.m. Sat., TBS)
Not into football? Tune into this daylong marathon of Clint classics, from ”Coogan’s Bluff” to ”Play Misty for Me.”
”Freedom” (8 p.m., UPN)
Verne Troyer (Mini Me) guest stars as Cassius, a black market merchant, in this ”Mad Max” -ish episode.
”Providence” (8 p.m., NBC)
If you didn’t get enough sugar in your candied yams, check out this two hour Thanksgiving special. Tippi Hedren (Hitchcock’s ”The Birds”) guests as John’s (Rob Estes) wealthy, controlling mother. Wonder what Melanie Griffith, Hedren’s real life daughter, thinks.
”C.S.I.” (9 p.m., CBS)
A serial killer taunts Grissom (William Petersen). Murder is bad enough. But sarcasm — that’s just inexcusable.
? SATURDAY, NOV. 25
”Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders” (7 p.m., Cartoon Network)
Those meddling kids — or at least Scooby and Shaggy — are kidnapped and given a complete physical by green ETs. On the upside, the duo meet a groovy chick and her Golden Retriever.
”Baha Men in Concert” (9:30 p.m., Nickelodeon)
Wanna find out who let the dogs out? Watch the Bahamian group perform in this taped concert special. Dave Aizer (”Slimetime Live”) hosts.
”The Best Commercials You’ve Never Seen (And Some You Have)” (10 p.m., ABC)
Bloopers fans take note: The ”Whassup” guys (Scott Brooks, Paul Williams, and Fred Thomas) host ABC’s celebration of the consumerist spirit with a look at holiday themed ads from around the world.
? SUNDAY, Nov. 26
”The Jamie Foxx Show (7 p.m., the WB)
After finding size 22 shoes under his girlfriend’s bed, Jamie thinks she’s fooling around with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett. Well, you know what they say about shoe size.
”King of the Hill” (7:30 p.m., Fox)
Arlen High’s star fullback (Brendan Fraser) can’t play in the big game after getting an F from Peggy. Fox’s own NFL sportscasters — James Brown, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw — voice a threesome of crazed Texan spectators.
”Cheers: The E! True Hollywood Story” (E!, 9 p.m.)
Backstabbing, drug abuse, and reckless partying: E! revels — sorry, reveals — the dark side of sitcom stardom.
? MONDAY, NOV. 27
”’N Sync’s Greatest MTV Moments” (8 p.m., MTV)
Call it an early Christmas present from the music network to ‘N Sync freaks: two hours of nonstop clips from interviews with Justin, JC, Joey, Chris, and Lance. Also included is the boy band’s 1999 Video Music Awards performance of ”Tearing Up My Heart.”
”Roswell” (8 p.m., WB)
Max (Jason Behr) and Isabelle (Katherine Heigl) meet their evil doubles (Behr and Heigl with spiky, teased hair) in an interstellar summit.
”Sparkassen Cup Figure Skating (8 p.m., ESPN)
Two and a half hours of hellcats on ice — including former World Champ and Russian Playboy model Maria Butyrskaya! Sports guy Terry Gannon asks the obtuse questions while skating expert Susie Wynne makes cutting remarks about the ice dancers’ lewd, spangly costumes.
? TUESDAY, NOV. 28
”3rd Rock from the Sun” (8:30 p.m., NBC)
The Solomons visit a parallel New York, where Dick is a lawyer, Harry is a TV exec, and Tommy joins the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Current ”SNL” stars Ana Gasteyer, Darrell Hammond, and Tracy Morgan all cameo. Alum Jane Curtin must’ve called in a favor.
”Dharma & Greg”(9 p.m., ABC)
Now that Dharma (Jenna Elfman) is a big sister, all she does is help with the new baby, which means no time for conceiving with Greg (Thomas Gibson). Farcical high jinks ensue.
”DAG” (9:30 p.m., NBC)
Bodyslam alert! WWF’s The Rock hangs out with Daggett (David Alan Grier) to research his upcoming movie role as a Secret Service agent. Meanwhile, the First Lady (Delta Burke) goes AWOL. First Delta, then the audience.
? WEDNESDAY, NOV. 29
”Bette” (8 p.m., CBS)
The Divine Miss M. uses her sitcom to plug her new album, ”Bette.” But hey, at least you get a free performance of the single ”The Color of Roses.” — assuming you think that’s a good thing.
”Star Trek: Voyager” (8 p.m., CBS)
In this new two hour movie, Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the crew deal with the potentially deadly results of the Doctor’s (Robert Picardo) unexpected act of treason.
”David Blaine: Frozen in Time” (10 p.m., ABC)
After three days stuck in a block of ice, Blaine will be released from his icy prison in Midtown Manhattan live (hopefully) on ABC. Then he’ll tell us what Walt Disney must feel like.