Gary Susman
March 17, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

If Fox programmers had their way, ”American Idol” would probably be on every night, with the rest of the Fox lineup riding its coattails and drawing on its audience. Unfortunately for Fox, ”Idol” can’t be the lead-in for every show. According to Nielsen, last week saw strong numbers for Fox’s new sitcom ”Cracking Up” drew big numbers, 11.3 million and 9.5 million, on nights that it followed ”Idol,” but this week, it drew only 4.9 million to its regular Monday slot. Similarly, new Fox shows that didn’t get help from ”Idol” — the ”Joan of Arcadia”-like ”Wonderfalls” and the ”Boy Meets Boy”-like ”Playing It Straight” — drew around 5 million viewers each.

Still, the combination of ”Idol” and the edgy new shows gave Fox bragging rights for the week in the coveted 18-to-49 demographic. It was CBS, though, that pulled in the most viewers overall. Its lineup included the week’s most-watched show (”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 27.4 million viewers) and five top-10 shows, leading to an average viewership of 12 million for the week. NBC, whose successes this week included ”The Apprentice,” the returning ”Crossing Jordan,” and the second half of its news special about Princess Diana, came in second for the week with an average audience of 10.2 million. Fox averaged 9.5 million for third place. ABC drew a less-than-”Passion”-sized audience of 9.1 million for its long-shelved ”Judas” TV movie, but that was still above the network’s average viewership of 7.7 million. On the netlets, ”America’s Next Top Model” is so strong (5.7 million this week) that it helped UPN overcome the weak debut of ”Game Over” (the week’s second least-watched show, with just 2 million viewers) to beat the WB for the week, 3.3 million to 3.2 million.

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