EW's guide to TV's winners and losers. A few shows were toasted (hello, ''Bachelor''), many were just toast (so long ''Birds of Prey''), find out what else made the list

By Dan Snierson
December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Alias: Scott Garfield/ABC

Shhhhh… Put down the wrapping paper. Turn down your Hanson ”Snowed In” Christmas CD. Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and just listen…

What you’re hearing is the sound of the 2002-03 TV season slipping by. Unlike last year’s lineup (which was distinguished by 9/11 coverage, the resurrection of ”Friends,” and flashy debuts of ”24” and ”Alias”) or even this past summer’s slate (”American Idol”), the current network prime-time schedule is a rather muted, under-the-radar affair. ”Smaller hits, niche hits…lowered expectations,” is how Fox exec VP Preston Beckman describes it. ”This season has been one of relative stability and safety,” says WB Entertainment president Jordan Levin. ”As a result, nothing has generally energized the public.”

Simply put, this year’s top-rated shows — ”CSI,” ”Friends,” ”ER,” ”Survivor,” and ”Everybody Loves Raymond” — are the same as last season’s. The highest-charting rookie, CBS’ ”CSI: Miami,” is a spin-off of an established hit. The freshman comedies with the largest numbers, CBS’ ”Still Standing” and NBC’s ”Good Morning, Miami,” owe more to their ”even a test pattern could score here” time slots than to any demonstrable audience affection. Still, the public managed to cozy up to a few fresh faces: Sugary family shows like ABC’s ”8 Simple Rules…,” The WB’s ”Everwood,” and NBC’s ”American Dreams” all earned relatively sweet Nielsens. And ABC’s latest eligible ”Bachelor” had America swooning. To find out who else deserves a ratings rose, read on.