NEW YORK -- "ER" welcomed the return of actress Sherry Stringfield last week with another return to something familiar: first place in the ratings.
An estimated 26.7 million people watched the show on NBC last Thursday, displacing "Friends" from the top spot. "Friends" came in second with 25.6 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday.
NBC won the week's ratings crown, as it has every week so far this television season.
The second episode of "Survivor" slipped below 20 million viewers, to 19.6 million. It tied for ninth place in the ratings, another indication of the diminished appetite for "reality" programming.
ABC fell to fourth place in the ratings last week, with Fox moving past on the strength of baseball coverage. ABC's average prime-time viewership this season has slid from 13 million the same time a year ago to 10.4 million this year. Last week, "The Practice" and "Monday Night Football" were ABC's only two programs in Nielsen's top 30.
ABC did order a full season's worth of episodes Tuesday for two of its modestly successful new programs, "Alias," and "According to Jim."
Far down on Nielsen's list last week were four new shows that networks had high hopes for this fall: NBC's "Emeril," ABC's Jason Alexander vehicle, "Bob Patterson," CBS' reality show, "The Amazing Race" and "The Ellen Show" with Ellen DeGeneres on CBS.
The WB network was buoyed last week by the strong showing of its "Smallville" premiere, about a teen-age Superman.
For the week, NBC averaged 12.2 million viewers (8.3 rating, 13 share), CBS had 12.1 million viewers (8.1, 13), Fox had 11.1 million viewers (7.5, 12), ABC had 9.8 million viewers (6.5, 11), the WB had 4.9 million (3.2, 5), UPN had 4.7 million (2.9, 5) and Pax TV had 1.3 million (0.9, 1).
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