''Idol,'' CBS win reality-driven ratings race. Unscripted fare rules, from Trump to ''Top Model,'' from college hoops to Condoleezza Rice

March 30, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

If you TiVo’d last week’s top shows, maybe you saw Donald Trump fire national security advisor Condoleezza Rice for missing a foul shot while Simon Cowell denied flipping her the bird. In other words, it was a week when a jumble of reality shows and other unscripted programming dominated the ratings race. Last Tuesday’s edition of ”American Idol,” on which Cowell says he was merely scratching his forehead with his middle finger, was the week’s most watched show, according to Nielsen, drawing some 27 million viewers. (Wednesday’s ”Idol” took third place with 20.4 million.) CBS, however, was the most watched network (averaging 11.5 million viewers), thanks to a schedule marked by ”Survivor,” college basketball, and ”60 Minutes”’ interview with Rice regarding the current controversy over the 9/11 security lapses (more than 16.7 million viewers made the newsmagazine the week’s No. 6 show).

CBS saw its NCAA tournament ratings rise 29 percent over last year, but hoops coverage pushed usual frontrunners ”Survivor” and ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” out of their Thursday slots, allowing Trump’s ”Apprentice” to finish in second place with an audience of 22.8 million. Finishing second among the networks was NBC (10.9 million), buoyed by ”Apprentice,” its Thursday slatemates ”Friends” (No. 8) and ”Will & Grace” (No. 10), and the recently returned ”Crossing Jordan” (justifying this week’s decision to renew the show for a fourth season by finishing No. 13). Fox finished first among viewers aged 18 to 49 but third among overall viewers, averaging 9.8 million. Fourth-place ABC (8 million) scored its biggest victory with a No. 20 finish for its reality entry, ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which in turn helped Sunday’s ”Alias” and ”The Practice.” Among the netlets, Yoanna House’s victory on the finale of ”America’s Next Top Model” drew 5.9 million viewers and helped UPN outdistance the WB, averaging 3.3 million viewers to the Frog’s 2.7 million.

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