"Ryan" ranks as the most-watched theatrical on television in two years, while "Lucy" gave CBS the largest audience in what's usually its movie time period in 18 months. Fox won the night in adults 18-49 behind "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm in the Middle," although its "X-Files" looked very shaky.
The results helped bunch the networks closer together in adults 18-49 for the week. When Nielsen issues weekly averages Tuesday, first-place NBC (projected 4.9 rating) and fourth-place ABC (4.2) will be separated by about seven-tenths of a ratings point, with CBS and Fox (4.6 each) in a close battle for second.
CBS will win in total viewers for the second time in three weeks and should finish right on the tail of NBC in adults 25-54, the age group targeted by CBS. It will likely be CBS' strongest weekly demo score since February.
Fox will finish on top in adults 18-34 for the first time this season thanks to a dominant victory in the younger demo on Sunday, topping ABC by about 6 shares.
The season premieres of "The Simpsons" (projected 14.4 million viewers, 6.9 rating/16 share in adults 18-49) and "Malcolm in the Middle" (projected 14.6 million, 7.0/16) boosted Fox to victory Sunday in adults 18-49 as well (preliminary 6.1/15), with each winning its half-hour; both were down vs. a year ago.
But "The X-Files" (projected 11 million viewers, 5.7/13 in adults 18-49) fell by a much bigger 35% from its year-ago season premiere in the demo (9.0/19). It finished second in adults 18-49 to ABC's "Ryan" (preliminary 6.8/15) and ominously declined in its second half-hour.
Perhaps making things tougher for "X-Files" was the additional drama competition from NBC's solid "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (preliminary 11.8 million, 4.2/9 in 18-49). And next week, ABC's "Alias" returns to the hour.
"Saving Private Ryan," which aired uncut from 8 to 11 and with limited commercials, averaged a preliminary 17.9 million viewers and a big 6.7/16 in adults 18-49 -- the largest audience for any theatrical since November 1999 (the premiere of "The Santa Clause" on ABC) and the best demo score for a feature film since "Titanic" set sail for the first time on NBC last November.
In men 18-49, "Ryan's" 7.9/18 is the best for any movie on television since the premiere of "Men in Black" on NBC in November 1999.
"Ryan" teamed with a special Armed Forces-themed "Millionaire" (preliminary 10.6 million) to give ABC the night in total viewers (16.1 million) -- its largest audience on a Sunday since the Academy Awards in March. ABC will finish the Nov. 5-11 frame with its strongest scores since premiere week.
From 9 to 11, ABC's "Ryan" topped CBS' "I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special" in overall audience (preliminary 18.4 million to 17.4 million). For CBS, it was the biggest gathering from 9 to 11 on Sunday (excepting the Super Bowl) since the miniseries "Jesus" in May 2000.
"Ryan" did especially well in men 25-54 (preliminary 8.6/18) while "Lucy" excelled in women 25-54 (9.0/19).
CBS' troubled new drama "The Education of Max Bickford," meanwhile, continued to lose viewers, dropping again to the network's smallest firstrun audience on record in the Sunday-at-8 hour (preliminary 10 million). It finished fourth by all key measures.
At 10 p.m., NBC rookie "UC: Undercover" also looked shaky, dropping to a season low in adults 18-49 (3.0/7).