CBS wins competitive weekly ratings race. Let the Thursday night showdowns -- ''CSI,'' ''Joey,'' ''Survivor,'' ''Apprentice'' -- begin

By Gary Susman
September 22, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

By Nielsen’s calendar, last week marked the end of the 2003-04 TV season, but it also marked the start of the coming season’s fierce competition over primetime’s most valuable piece of real estate, the Thursday night schedule. Of the week’s top 10 shows, six were from the Thursday slates of NBC and CBS. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation took the most-watched honors (22.3 million viewers), followed closely by the premiere of Survivor: Vanuatu (20 million). Guest star J. Lo helped rock Will & Grace into fourth place (16.5 million), with Without a Trace a trace behind at No. 5 (16.1 million). The Apprentice 2 was in seventh place (15.9 million), while Joey dropped from the top spot it enjoyed after the previous week’s debut to No. 8 this week (15.4 million).

Overall, CBS won the week with an average of 10.9 million viewers. NBC, which also saw a top-10 finish for Maria Shriver’s interview with Siegfried and Roy, finished second (9.9 million). ABC, which scored with football (two top-10 entries) but fumbled with specials (the little-watched Miss America Pageant and Emmy Awards ceremony), finished third with 8.8 million. Fox, which landed just one show in the top 40, fell to a dismal 4.8 million showing for fourth place. That’s not too far ahead of netlets the WB (3.7 million) and UPN (2.8 million).