Other patterns are also emerging at the one-quarter mark of the season: ABC finished fourth in adults 18-49 for a fifth straight week, and UPN was again the biggest year-to-year gainer among the broadcast networks.
According to Nielsen, NBC took the week in adults 18-49 by 2 shares over CBS and Fox, which tied for second. It's the eighth win in nine weeks this season for NBC, which also won in adults 25-54 and 18-34 (tied with Fox) as well as all adult female demos.
Despite airing on Thanksgiving (a night with lower viewing levels), Thursday programs "Friends" (11.1 rating, 31 share in 18-49, 24.24 million viewers overall) and "ER" (10.9/29, 23.58 million) were the week's top two programs. NBC won Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in 18-49.
CBS won in total viewers for the fourth time in five weeks and also ranked second in adults 25-54 for a third straight week. It won Monday, Tuesday and Saturday in total viewers, boosted on the latter by "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and a season-high audience for "Touched by an Angel."
CBS was represented in the week's top 10 by "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Survivor: Africa."
Fox, which tied CBS for second in adults 18-49 and tied NBC for first in 18-34, was boosted on Sunday by the television premiere of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." It also claimed eight of the week's top 20 shows in men 18-34, winning for the week in that demo as well as all other male breakdowns.
ABC struggled despite the second strongest showing of the season for "Monday Night Football" (17.37 million, 7.3/19 in 18-49), which was the week's No. 1 show in men 18-49. It was stung by a weak Thanksgiving night, while its top drama, Sunday's "The Practice," fell to its lowest 18-49 rating (5.7/14) in at least two years.
UPN was again up year-to-year in demos by double-digit percentages, with strength Monday through Wednesday. Tuesday's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" drew its best female demos since its season premiere, while lead-out "Roswell" scored season highs in several key demos.
The WB trailed UPN in all breakdowns except viewers 12-34 (the WB's target demo), and continues to struggle with its Sunday laffers.
Fox took the night of Nov. 25 by all key measures with "Phantom Menace" (17.77 million, 7.9/18 in adults 18-49). And despite airing opposite each other, "Phantom" (7.8/20) and ABC's "The Santa Clause" (6.9/18) were the week's top two shows in teens.
At CBS, "60 Minutes" -- starting at 7:30 because of football -- drew its largest audience in eight weeks (16.70 million), and theatrical "You've Got Mail" (13.21 million) was the network's most-watched movie of the season.
CBS' annual airing of "Rudolph" (13.09 million, 4.7/14 in 18-49) dominated at 8 and finished as the week's No. 1 show in kids (7.7/26). Its "Touched by an Angel" (12.41 million, 4.0/12) and "The District" (13.36 million, 3.6/11) also topped their hours.
NBC did better than usual on the night with "It's a Wonderful Life" (7.58 million, 2.9/9).
Fox took the night among adults 18-34 with the theatrical premiere of "Big Daddy," and finished a close second to NBC in 18-49 (3.4/11 vs. 3.3/11). NBC was led by "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (14.86 million, 4.3/14) -- the No. 1 show of the night.
Without much adult tune-in, CBS' "Rugrats: The Movie" (6 million, 1.5/5 in 18-49) finished fourth from 8 to 10, but ABC did better with the time slot premiere of "America's Funniest Home Videos" at 8 (9.55 million, 3.0/10).
Brad Pitt's guest spot on "Friends" (24.24 million, 11.1/31 in 18-49) sent the comedy's ratings soaring compared with Thanksgiving 2000. A one-hour "Will & Grace" (8.8/23) and "ER" (10.9/29) also won their slots in 18-49 for NBC.
CBS was a solid second behind "Survivor" (17.70 million, 6.6/18 in 18-49) and a pair of "CSI" episodes, but Fox was off key with "The Wedding Singer" (1.5/4 in 18-49), and ABC didn't get any ratings satisfaction out of its "Being Mick (Jagger)" special (1.5/4).
Most shows hit season lows on the eve of Thanksgiving, but CBS' second Garth Brooks concert special drew the network's best non-awards show numbers of the season for the Wednesday 10 p.m. hour (9.53 million, 3.6/10).
NBC won in viewers and 18-49 behind its drama trio, while Fox's comedy lineup moved ahead in 18-34, boosted by newcomer "Bernie Mac."
NBC's Jennifer Lopez concert special won the night's opening hour in 18-49 (4.5/12) -- a big 45% improvement over what the network has averaged with regularly scheduled comedies this fall. That led into winning 18-49 scores for "Frasier" (6.5/16), "Scrubs" (5.5/13) and "Dateline" (5.1/14).
CBS won the night in viewers, but "The Guardian" hit a season low (11.72 million, 3.2/8 in adults 18-49). The rookie drama is having a tougher time opposite ABC's "NYPD Blue" (12.87 million, 4.9/12), which won the hour's drama battle; Fox's "24" also hit a new low (8.18 million, 4.1/10).
UPN's "Buffy" topped the WB's "Gilmore Girls" in women 18-34 for the first time while remaining on top in adults 18-34, 18-49 and viewers 12-34.
The Giants-Vikings NFL game boosted ABC to a win in 18-49 (5.6/14) while CBS eked ahead in total viewers (15.4 million).
"The Hughleys" attracted UPN's largest audience at 8 (4.86 million) since the premiere of "Dilbert" in January 1999.