''Idol,'' Dave score big in Nielsen ratings. Last Tuesday and Wednesday's ''Idol'' episodes were the week's most watched shows, while Letterman's return marked a rare victory over Leno

By Gary Susman
Updated April 01, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

At a time when American soldiers are fighting overseas, it seems most Americans prefer to watch ”American Idol.” The singing contest held down the top two spots on the list of last week’s most-watched shows, according to Nielsen. Some 19.8 million viewers watched the crooners get a little bit country on Tuesday, and 19 million watched finalist Julia DeMato get the boot on Wednesday. ”Idol”’s success even boosted Fox’s Wednesday ”Idol” follow-up, Wanda Sykes’ new sitcom ”Wanda at Large,” into the top 10, finishing at No. 10 with 14.3 million viewers.

In other ratings news, early estimates show that Monday’s ”Late Show with David Letterman,” featuring Dave’s first night back on the air after a shingles infection sidelined him for more than a month, scored a rare victory over NBC rival Jay Leno’s ”Tonight Show.” The CBS host scored a 5.3 rating, beating Leno by 23 percent, marking only the second time this season he’s beat the ”Tonight Show” (the Feb. 17 ”Late Show” with Letterman punching bag Dr. Phil McGraw as a guest was the first) and his biggest margin over Leno since he returned from his sick leave for heart surgery in 2000.

Still, NBC got the last laugh. By landing episodes of all three incarnations of ”Law & Order” in the top 10, NBC averaged the most viewers for the week, 11.2 million overall. CBS drew 10.5 million, and Fox came in third with 9.6 million. ABC, which landed only one show in the top 30 (”The Practice,” at No. 28), drew 8.4 million, followed by the WB (3.4 million) and UPN (3.3 million).

Episode Recaps


American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC