NEW YORK -- "ER" opened its seventh season with 29 million viewers last week, serving notice that it's not about to give up a six-year streak as television's most-watched drama easily.
The hospital drama had four million more viewers than the NBC Emmy-winner "The West Wing" had in its season opener a week earlier.
The three major networks all had something to boast about during the second week of the TV season: ABC was the top-rated network, NBC led in the 18-to-49 audience that advertisers love, and CBS arguably had the most across-the-board strength.
Among the 22 dramas or comedies in Nielsen Media Research's top 30 last week, 13 were on CBS, five on NBC and four on ABC.
The week's biggest winners included NBC's "Friends," which drew nearly 28 million viewers for the second of back-to-back season opening episodes; the Emmy-winning "Will & Grace" in its new Thursday time slot; "Everybody Loves Raymond," which had nearly 20 million viewers; and new comedies starring Bette Midler and Geena Davis, both of which opened in Nielsen's top 20.
"Dark Angel" was Fox's most popular show, and "Gideon's Crossing," ABC's medical drama starring Andre Braugher, had a strong debut.
The networks also had weak spots: ABC's Friday comedy, "The Trouble With Normal," is in trouble, as is NBC's Monday duo of "Daddio" and "Tucker." CBS did poorly Thursday with "City of Angels" and "Diagnosis Murder," which may be on its last legs. Fox's "Freakylinks" seems headed for the scrap heap and, despite good reviews, the WB's new soap spoof, "Grosse Pointe," is its least popular show.
For the week, ABC averaged 14.5 million viewers (10.0 rating, 16 share), CBS (9.0 rating, 15 share) and NBC (8.8 rating, 14 share), both averaged 12.7 million viewers and Fox had 8.9 million.
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