''Trading Spouses'' enlivens ratings race. The Fox reality hit cracks the top 10 in a week otherwise dominated by CBS

By Gary Susman
Updated August 04, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Forget swing states; Americans want to see swing families. In a week in which the networks broadcast as little of the Democratic National Convention as they possibly could (and, correspondingly, attracted few viewers to their political coverage), the biggest ratings news of the week belonged to ”Trading Spouses.” In its second outing, Fox’s (non-sexual) wife-swapping reality show proved itself a hit, drawing 9.3 million viewers and finishing as the week’s No. 8 show, according to Nielsen. Another household reality show, ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” has been the lone bright spot on the schedule for ABC, and it also cracked the top 10 for the first time last week, drawing 9.1 million and finishing in 10th place.

The Democratic convention, which Republicans derided all week as an extreme makeover, did not muster similar drawing power. The networks broadcast only three hours of coverage apiece from the four-day event, having decided it wasn’t really newsworthy, and viewers apparently agreed. (Expect network coverage of this month’s Republican National Convention to be similarly skimpy.) Only CBS’ broadcast of Sen. John Kerry’s acceptance speech on Thursday cracked the top 50, drawing 5.6 million viewers for a No. 38 finish. Overall, the convention had an average viewership of 20.4 million (about the same as four years ago), divided among ABC, CBS, NBC, and cable channels CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

As usual, CBS won the week with its combination of reruns (”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” continued to be the most-watched show, with 13.5 million viewers) and new reality shows (”Amazing Race” finished at No. 6 with 10.1 million). The network owned all of the top seven slots and averaged 7.8 million viewers for the week. NBC followed with 5.5 million, and ABC edged out Fox 5.1 million to 5 million. UPN, boosted by the strong (5.2 million) debut of ”Amish in the City,” smote the WB, 3.4 million to 2.5 million.