Four months a year, the four major
television networks pull out all of the stops in a shameless
attempt to gain viewers. During these times, known as sweeps,
audiences can look forward to outrageous guest appearances, bizarre
plot twists and innovative new programming, and this February
proved to be no different. Here is the Daily’s report card on
this year’s sweeps:

Mira Levitan
(Courtesy of FOX)
Mira Levitan
(Courtesy of CBS)
Mira Levitan
(Courtesy of NBC)

ABC

Sweeps looked bleak to ABC for the first couple weeks of
February. Despite the debut of “Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition” and keeping their sitcoms stocked with guest stars
such as Dan Aykroyd, Roger Clemens, LeBron James and Kathie Lee
Gifford, the Alphabet network failed to have a show in the top 30
until the very end of the month.

First to bring in ratings for the network was Diane
Sawyer’s “Primetime” interview with Mel Gibson.
Helping to fuel the controversy over “The Passion of the
Christ,” the interview was the first bright glimmer of hope
on ABC’s horizon.

The network fortunately found sweeps salvation with Regis
Philbin’s “Super Millionaire.” The revamped
phenomenon saved the network, with the premiere bringing in 17.5
million viewers. Also helping in ABC’s redemption was the
76th Academy Awards. The return of Billy Crystal as host and an
Oscar sweep by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the
King” spelled success for the lengthy show, pulling in its
biggest audience since 2000.

The network gained some respect from the last-minute redemption
of the Oscars and “Super Millionaire,” but still had a
dismal showing. They didn’t come up with anything new or too
horribly exciting and got the ratings they deserved for their
little efforts. C

CBS

February was a banner month for CBS. The Eye network earned
monstrous ratings for their coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII, drawing
89 million viewers, slightly up from last year. CBS also beat out
the competition with coverage of the Grammy Awards.

Ratings stayed strong for CBS, as “C.S.I.” held the
top spot, while “C.S.I.: Miami” also remained in the
top 10, making the franchise worthy of yet another spin-off this
fall. “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which may be in its
final season, also remained a big draw. Perennial favorite
“60 Minutes” continued to bring in viewers, while
“Survivor: All-Stars” revived the series by sending
favorites such as Richard Hatch and Rupert Boneham back to the
island.

In a bold move, CBS featured no guest stars on their most
popular shows, focusing instead on advancing storylines and the
outrageousness of “Survivor.” The network used
well-known characters on their shows, combined with big TV events,
to draw in viewers. CBS looks to be in great shape heading into the
end of the television season. B+

NBC

The race for ratings this February was a celebrity parade on NBC
with Michael J. Fox leading a slew of big-name stars. Luckily, Fox
picked the right NBC comedy to kick-start his return to television
as the hilarious sitcom “Scrubs” featured him as an
obsessive-compulsive surgeon in two episodes. Another highlight was
the network premiere of the family favorite “Shrek,”
which was perfectly timed for the upcoming sequel.

Tracy Ullman appeared on “Will and Grace” as a wacky
cooking instructor with a prosthetic finger but her talent was
seriously underplayed in this weak episode. Minnie Driver’s
reprised role as Lorraine, however, was a humorous addition to the
ensemble that will continue into March.

Of course, this month brought the long-awaited wedding between
Phoebe and Mike on “Friends.” However, having Joey
conduct the ceremony has been seen before and the banter between
Ross and Chandler about being in the wedding party was too trivial
to carry the episode.

Overall it appears that NBC’s star-studded February
brought little to the already established and predictable
storylines. Ratings are actually more likely to boost at the end of
the season as the network will air many popular series and season
finales. B-

FOX

The FOX network, who has a reputation for pushing the envelope
with its programming, had a vacillating sweeps month.
“American Idol” returned and did not miss a step, as
audiences watched in mass quantities, proving the show’s
third season will be just as big as the first two. In addition, the
reality special “The Littlest Groom” was a heartwarming
tale, and strong episodes from mainstays such as “24”
and “The Simpsons” gave the network a boost.

Unfortunately, FOX failed with their other new
programs.“Man vs. Beast 2” failed to create the
excitement and drama of the first installment, and the finale to
“My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” was embarrassing to
watch, as the bride who lied to her parents was given the million
dollars anyway.

FOX took the most chances during February out of any of the four
big networks and should be applauded for trying to give audiences
the most entertaining programs possible. Although not every show
was a success, they upheld the “anything for ratings”
attitude that make sweeps the most exciting months on television.
A-

— Compiled by the Daily TV/New Media staff

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