Ratings: 'Friends' Still Going Strong
It may be eight years old, but "Friends" proved as popular as ever when its new season debuted last Thursday. According to preliminary Nielsen ratings, the NBC sitcom drew nearly 32 million viewers, its largest audience in more than five years. New series didn't even come close, with "Inside Schwartz" and "The Agency" sparking little to moderate interest on Thursday and Friday. Saturday saw even more disappointing results, including the lackluster premieres of Fox's "Pasadena," ABC's "The Mole 2" and CBS's "Citizen Baines." NBC truly owned Thursday night. "Friends" kicked it off, delivering its largest audience since February 1996 (31.7 million) and its best 18-49 rating since its 1998 season premiere. It scored a staggering 58 share among women 18-34, reports Variety, topping the combined ABC-CBS-Fox competition by 44 shares. NBC's new 8:30 sitcom, "Inside Schwartz" (22.51 million viewers), retained 72% of the "Friends" 18-49 audience -- usually not a good hold, but in this case the retention could be a bit misleading, as many viewers likely switched on their sets only to see "Friends." At 9, the season premiere of "Will & Grace," with 20.64 million watchers, fell 14% behind last year in 18-49 (when it had a stronger lead-in) and fell behind "Schwartz" in total viewers. Still, "Will" won its half-hour by 10 shares in 18-49, while 9:30's "Just Shoot Me" (18.60 million viewers), which was off by just 6% from last year, easily won its timeslot against competition on the other networks. "ER" closed out the night with an easy victory over CBS's new CIA drama "The Agency" (11.98 million viewers) and ABC's "Primetime" (10.67 million), although the medical drama won its hour in 18-49 by a "mere" 17 shares, down from 26 last season.
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