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Patriot Games

Super Bowl, reality shows dominate ratings race. Along with the big game, ''Survivor,'' ''American Idol,'' ''Apprentice,'' and ''Fear Factor'' scored touchdowns last week

The most watched television programming last week involved such spectacles as frontal nudity, people embarrassing themselves before millions, and the prospect of someone getting fired -- and that's not counting the Super Bowl and its halftime show. Sure, the Patriots-Panthers game, along with Janet Jackson's pierced nipple, drew the week's biggest audience (89.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, and 59 million for the post-game show), but other unscripted competitions did very well, too. Though the ''Survivor: All-Stars'' premiere held on to only a third of CBS' Super Bowl audience, its 33.5 million viewers were enough to make it the third most-watched show of the week. Fox's ''American Idol'' scored big, drawing 29.6 million to Tuesday's auditions (for a No. 4 finish) and 28.3 million on Wednesday (that episode was No. 5). NBC's ''The Apprentice,'' now moved out of ''Idol'''s Wednesday shadow, came in at No. 8 with 18.9 million Donald Trump acolytes, and the network's ''Fear Factor'' finished ninth (17.8 million). Of the week's top 10 shows, only three were scripted (''Friends'' at No. 6, ''CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'' at No. 7, and ''Without a Trace'' at No. 10).

Traditionally the year's most watched program, the Super Bowl helped CBS more than double its average viewership to 25.3 million for the week. ''Idol'' boosted Fox to a second-place finish, with an average of 9.8 million viewers. NBC was close behind with 9.4 million, while ABC was a distant fourth with 7.9 million. Reality competition was good to UPN, which drew 7.1 million viewers to ''America's Next Top Model'' and drove the network to a weekly average of 4 million, beating the WB's 3.7 million.

Originally posted Feb 04, 2004