''Idol,'' ''Apprentice,'' score ratings hits. Viewers flock to see William Hung sing and Omarosa get fired

By Gary Susman
March 10, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

TV viewers gave it up last week for jaw-dropping, hard-to-believe spectacles, whether it was the ”American Idol” producers letting William ”She Bangs” Hung sing again on the ”Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented” special, Donald Trump finally firing Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth on ”The Apprentice,” or a rifle-toting Tony Soprano on alert in his backyard for a trespassing bear. According to Nielsen, ”Idol” landed three episodes in the top 10 (Tuesday’s episode was No. 1, drawing 25.5 million viewers, and 19.7 million gawkers made the ”Untalented” special the week’s No. 6 show). Omarosa’s swan song on ”The Apprentice” came in at No. 4 (20.2 million). Not on Nielsen’s ranking of network shows was the ”Sopranos” season premiere, but after a 15-month absence, the show returned loaded for bear, drawing its third biggest audience ever (12.1 million), whacking its Sunday night competition on the networks.

Other unlikely spectacles that drew rubbernecking viewers: The salacious revelations on NBC’s ”Princess Diana: The Secret Tapes” (No. 12), the Fabio-lous finale of NBC’s ”Average Joe” (No. 17), that talking aardvark on the premiere of ABC’s ”Kingdom Hospital” (No. 18), and the long-awaited, post-maternity leave return of Jill Hennessy to NBC’s ”Crossing Jordan” (No. 22). Still, it was business as usual on such hits as ”Survivor” (No. 2) and ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (No. 3) that helped CBS win the week in overall viewers (an average of 12.5 million). Second-place NBC averaged 11.1 million, followed by Fox (9.9 million) and ABC (8.6 million). The WB eked out a rare victory over UPN, 3.8 million to 3.7 million.