An estimated 60 million of you caught some part of Cinderella on ABC; another good chunk tuned in to the season premiere of The X-Files on Fox; a sizable, stalwart pack welcomed Angela Lansbury back to prime time on CBS; and another, even bigger bunch paid tribute to Oprah Winfrey by letting the remote come to rest on her ABC TV movie, Before Women Had Wings.
In fact, about the only thing you didn't watch was NBC. But that's another story--coming later in this story.
As for the boffo Sunday night, Cinderella led the way. Once-embattled network president Jamie Tarses can thank her fairy godmother, or more accurately Magic Kingdom boss Michael Eisner, for the Wonderful World of Disney project that pulled the highest 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday-night ratings for the network in 14 years. The TV musical, a remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic with Whitney Houston and Brandy, pulled a 22.3 rating in the nation's top TV markets. Its success is already spurring talk of more Disney-produced song-and-dance shows.
The flip side of sunny Cinderella was the creepy X-Files. The series' fourth season premiere--which revealed Mulder was alive, but Scully was dying, or at least, passing out--scored its best ratings ever (a preliminary 16.2), save for a special episode that was aired after a Super Bowl.
As impressive as the X-Files was, it still wasn't as impressive as the goings-on over at the suddenly powerhouse ABC, where Oprah Winfrey was packing 'em in with Before Women Had Wings. The best news of all (for ABC): Winfrey has already got a deal with the network to deliver more of these kind of uplifting (and ratings-friendly?) TV movies.
The combined power of Cinderella and Winfrey boosted ABC to a key Sunday November sweeps win. CBS, which puttered along nicely with the steady, but older-skewing Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest, came in second; Fox, third. As for "Must See TV" NBC? A "Not Our Year" fourth place.
The Peacock got plucked--sitcoms Men Behaving Badly and Jenny drew single-digit ratings; the highly promoted miniseries House of Frankenstein didn't do much better, a preliminary 8.7 for Sunday night's part-one installment. NBC hasn't gotten paltry numbers like that out of a miniseries since 1994.