`The West Wing,' `CSI' have smashing season premieres

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ In a season with a real presidential contest, so many viewers flocked to the season premiere of ``The West Wing'' that the White House drama is on the verge of becoming TV's next big hit.

The two-hour episode last week, resolving the cliffhanger of who was shot in an assassination attempt, drew 25 million viewers and was the most popular program during the first week of the new TV season.

``The West Wing'' was a modest hit in its rookie season, averaging 9.2 million viewers. But NBC promoted its reruns heavily this summer, and the show swept the Emmy Awards in September.

CBS was the overall winner of opening week, averaging 14.5 million viewers in prime time (10.0 rating, 16 share), Nielsen Media Research said on Tuesday.

``C.S.I.,'' a CBS Friday night drama about forensic investigators, was a big surprise. Its first episode had 17.2 million viewers, beating by more than 4 million the audience for ``The Fugitive,'' CBS' much-touted remake of the classic series.

The ``C.S.I.'' audience was also about the same size as Fox's premiere of James Cameron's ``Dark Angel,'' which aired opposite the first presidential debate.

NBC also scored with the critically acclaimed ``Ed,'' which drew 16.4 million viewers for its debut. ``Ed'' had an unexpected boost when CBS postponed the competing ``Touched by an Angel'' season premiere because a football game ran long.

The WB's new family-friendly drama ``Gilmore Girls'' also had a strong start, outdrawing the network's returning fave, ``Dawson's Creek.''

Based on one week's returns, there are already trouble spots: ABC's ``The Trouble With Normal'' and Fox's ``Freakylinks'' had lackluster debuts. NBC's Monday night duo of ``Daddio'' and ``Tucker'' are also troubled.

Fox's ``Sexiest Bachelor in America'' contest, with 8.2 million viewers, was a relative dud. The special it was modeled after, ``Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire,'' had nearly three times the viewers last winter when Darva Conger was the unlucky bride.

ABC was second for the week with 12.9 million prime-time viewers (8.9 rating, 15 share), NBC had 10.9 million viewers (7.6, 12), Fox had 8.7 million (6.1, 10), UPN had 4.7 million (3.1, 5), the WB had 4.6 million (3.1, 5) and Pax TV had 1.1 million (0.9, 1).

NBC's ``Nightly News'' won the evening news ratings race with 9 million average viewers (6.9 rating, 14 share), ABC's ``World News Tonight'' had 8.4 million (6.5, 14) and the ``CBS Evening News'' had 7.7 million (6.0, 13).

A rating point represents 1,022,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 102.2 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Oct. 2-8, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings: ``The West Wing,'' NBC, 16.3; ``Everybody Loves Raymond,'' CBS, 14.6; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Tuesday), ABC, 14.1; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Thursday), ABC, 13.7; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Wednesday), ABC, 13.4; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Sunday), 13.1; ''60 Minutes,'' CBS, 12.8; ``C.S.I., CBS, 11.8; ``NFL Monday Night Football: Seattle at Kansas City,'' ABC, 11.4; ``Dark Angel,'' Fox, 11.2.