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E/R, Sherry Stringfield
Credit: Sherry Strinfield: Warner Bros.

3 Blind Mice

TUBE TALK These days, it seems that ”Friends”‘ only competition for Nielsen ratings supremacy comes from fellow NBC Thursday night staple ”ER.” After a three-week run as the top-rated show, ”Friends” was edged out by last Thursday’s ”ER” episode marking the return of original cast member Sherry Stringfield, which drew 26.7 million viewers. NBC won the week with an average of 12.2 million viewers, nosing out an average of 12.1 viewers for a strong CBS roster, including ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” ”Everybody Loves Raymond,” ”JAG,” and barely-in-the-top-10 ”Survivor.” An unusually competitive Fox, which aired six nights of baseball playoffs, was third, with 11.1 million. ABC, which managed to place only ”The Practice” and ”Monday Night Football” in the top 30, was fourth (9.8 million), followed by the WB (4.9 million) and UPN (4.7 million).

Despite the renewed strength of ”Friends” and ”ER,” NBC still doesn’t have the Must See Thursday lineup of yore. For the next few weeks at least, ”Inside Schwartz” will be benched, to be replaced during November sweeps by rotating reruns of ”Friends” and ”Will & Grace,” as well as an original episode of Tuesday rookie ”Scrubs.” Meanwhile, CBS, continues to rework its Friday lineup, moving struggling ”The Ellen Show” back half an hour into the 8:30 spot of casualty ”Danny” and filling the 8 p.m. slot with reruns of ”The King of Queens,” to be followed during November sweeps with ”Funny Flubs & Screw-Ups” specials. (As opposed to Unfunny Flubs & Screw-Ups, like ”Danny.”)

On the plus side, seven shows received network commitments for full-season pickups yesterday. ABC ordered full seasons of Jim Belushi‘s ”According to Jim” and ”Alias.” NBC picked up ”Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (”Alias”’ time-slot competitor) and ”L&O” alumna Jill Hennessy‘s ”Crossing Jordan.” The WB committed to all three of its new Friday night comedies, ”Reba,” ”Maybe It’s Me,” and ”Raising Dad.” These shows join NBC’s ”Scrubs,” Fox’s ”Undeclared,” and CBS’ ”The Guardian” among shows that can breathe easy for the next year. They may yet be joined by the WB’s ”Smallville,” which debuted last week with a superpowered 8.4 million viewers….

When the Emmys were first rescheduled for Oct. 7 in the wake of the terrorist attacks, E! scrapped Joan Rivers‘ traditional red-carpet coverage as inappropriate, leading to some reports that a disappointed Rivers would leave E! altogether. But with the Oct. 7 launch of air strikes against Afghanistan leading to the rescheduling of the Emmys for Nov. 4, Joan and daughter Melissa Rivers will be back to greet the stars as they enter the Shubert Theatre. ”Joan feels that enough time has passed and the mood of the country is one where it’s time to look forward and feel good about ourselves,” E! VP John Rieber tells the New York Post. Given the more modest business-suit dress code of the newly somber ceremony, Joan won’t be grilling the stars on their fashion choices, Rieber says, but asking them morale-boosting questions about how they’ve responded to the recent tragedies….

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is not a Mickey Mouse operation, but it WILL celebrate its 200th birthday next year with a slate of Disney specials. There will be everything from a prime-time ABC special next June called ”Young America Celebrates West Point” (”with stars from stage, film, television and the recording industry,” an ABC spokesperson said yesterday), to History Channel documentaries, broadcasts of old Army football games on ESPN Classic, profiles of prominent Army women on Lifetime’s ”Intimate Portrait,” and commercials on every ABC radio and TV show, including network news programs. ”By using the full array of Disney properties, West Point will be well positioned to tell its story to a wide audience on ABC prime time, as well as to women on Lifetime, young adults on the Disney properties, history buffs on the History Channel and men on ESPN,” an ABC spokesman said. Call it an Army of One Media Conglomerate.

3 Blind Mice
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