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GLUED TO THE TUBE / Nets Not Catching Viewers

IT AIN'T Cleopatra, folks. It's the networks that are the queens of

denial.

A look at Nielsen's final tally for the 1998-99 TV season proves

that. Prime time's top-ranked show still is "ER." But it attracts 5

million viewers fewer than it did two seasons ago and nearly 7 million

fewer than three seasons back.

Ouch.

Meanwhile, basic cable grabbed 2.7 million more viewers this season,

up nearly 13 percent, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising

Bureau. The report says 30 of+ the 36 ad-supported cable networks

monitored by Nielsen gained households or stayed even, while four of the

six broadcast nets lost viewers (only Fox and The WB gained a little).

Double ouch. Yet the slipping nets announced fall '99 lineups last

month that look painfully familiar, bland and predictable. Although it's

hard to judge the 36 new series from synopses and quick clips, the tried

and true - and the inevitable copycat formula (now it's youth dramas) -

appear to be ubiquitous again. This, when the only shows to which

viewers really flock are those breaking the current mold, whether it's

the shake-'em-up wildness of "Ally McBeal" or the family feel-good of

"7th Heaven."

Meanwhile, cable is aiming both barrels at the seemingly slumbering

broadcasters. HBO's blockbuster critical and audience hit "The

Sopranos" returns for a repeat run tomorrow night at 9. TNT premieres

"Crusade" tomorrow at 10 p.m. from the creator of "Babylon 5," while USA

launches the supernatural comedy-thriller "GvsE" next month. The TV biz

itself takes a shot from Showtime's wicked insider drama, "Beggars and

Choosers," June 19, while the channel views pro basketball in July 4's

"The Hoop Life." Lifetime's acclaimed "Any Day Now" starts its second

season in August. And AMC tries to re '30s set studio saga "The Lot."

It stars Jeffrey Tambor, who became a bona fide TV star in "the

Larry Sanders Show," - another cable offering.

Wake up, networks. You're not in Rome anymore.

Nielsen Television Index Ranking Report, ranked by total viewers age

2+, 1998-99 season (ended May 26).

In order: rank, program name, (household rank) the, [average

viewers, in millions].

1. ER (1) [25.4\].

2. Friends (2) [23.4].

3. Frasier (3) [22.5].

4. Jesse (5) [20.1].

5. NFL Monday Night Football (4) [19.6].

6. Touched by an Angel (8) [19.4].

7. Veronica's Closet (5) [19.3].

8. 60 Minutes (7) [18.7].

9. CBS Sunday Movie (9) [17.3].

10. Home Improvement (11)[16.4].

11. The X-Files (26) [15.7].

12. 20/20 (Wed.) (10) [15.3].

12. Everybody Loves Raymond (12) [15.5].

14. Drew Carey Show (15) [14.8].

15. NYPD Blue (13) [14.6].

16. Walker, Texas Ranger (28) [14.3].

17. Jag (17) [14.1].

18. Law and Order (14) [13.9].

18. NFL Monday Showcase (17) [13.7].

18. Providence (17) [13.8].

18. Ally McBeal (21) [13.8].

18. Becker (21) [13.8].

23. Dateline-Fri. (17) [13.5].

23. Dharma & Greg (27) [13.5].

23. NBC Sunday Movie (30)[13.5].

23. The Simpsons (47) [13.5].

23. 20/20-Fri. (15) [13.6].

28. CBS Tuesday Movie (21) [13.3].

28. Spin City (28) [13.3].

28. Whose Line Is it Anyway? (38) [13.2].

31. Dateline-Mon. (21) [13.1].

31. Dateline-Tue. (21) [13.0].

33. Diagnosis Murder (31) [12.8].

33. The Practice (33) [12.7].

33. Family Guy (56) [12.8].

36. Cosby (38) [12.4].

36. King of Queens (38) [12.5].

38. Will & Grace (35) [12.3].

38. NFL Monday Blast (36) [12.2].

38. Just Shoot Me (36) [12.3].

38. The Hughleys (41)[12.3].

38. Nash Bridges (43) [12.3].

43. 60 Minutes II (31) [12.1].

43. Dateline 1/3Wed.-8 p.m. (33) [12.1].

43. Two Guys, a Girl & a Pizza Place (43) [12.0].

43. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (54) [12.1].

43. Wonderful World of Disney (67) [11.9].

48. 20/20-Sun. (43) [11.7].

48. Sons of Thunder (54) [11.8].

50. Secret Lives of Men (43) [11.4].

50. The Norm Show (47) [11.6].

50. Promised Land (47) [11.5].

50. World's Amazing Videos (47) [11.6].

54. 20/20-Mon. (42) [11.2].

54. Candid Camera (59) [11.1].

54. That '70s Show (79) [11.2].

57. Dateline Friday-8 p.m. (47) [11.0].

57. ABC Monday Movie (53) [11.1].

57. Kids Say Darndest the Things (59) [11.0].

57. Boy Meets World (67) [10.9].

57. Martial Law (72) [11.0].

62. 48 Hours (47) [10.7].

62. Dateline Sunday-8 p.m. (56) [10.7].

62. Two of a Kind (67) [10.7].

62. Brother's Keeper (75) [10.6].

66. NFL Sunday 1/3post (59) [10.5].

66. Sports Night (62) [10.5].

66. It's Like, You Know (66) [10.5].

69. Homicide (62) [10.3].

69. Mad About You (62) [10.2].

69. Party of Five (67) [10.2].

69. Turks (67) [10.3].

69. Early Edition (79) [10.1].

69. Magnificent Seven (83)[10.3].

75. L.A. Doctors (56) [10.0].

75. Chicago Hope (62) [9.9].

75. Pretender (85) [10.0].

78. Brian Benben show (73) [9.6].

78. Beverly Hills 90210 (75) [9.8].

78. Unsolved Mysteries (85) [9.7].

78. Cops 2 (88) [9.6].

78. Guinness Records (90) [9.7].

83. Newsradio (73) [9.5].

83. Suddenly Susan (75) [9.4].

83. 3rd Rock From the Sun (75) [9.5].

83. Dateline Sunday 1/37 p.m. (79) [9.5].

83. Working (79) [9.5].

83. Wildest Police Videos (88) [9.5].

89. The Nanny (83) [9.3].

90. AMW: America Fights Back (94) [9.0].

90. Futurama (100) [8.9].

90. The PJs (103) [9.0].

93. Caroline in the City (85) [8.8].

93. Maggie Winters (90) [8.6].

93. Profiler (94) [8.8].

96. Everything's Relative (92) [8.3].

96. ABC Thursday Movie (94) [8.4].

96. Melrose Place (94) [8.4].

96. Cops (105) [8.4].

100. Conrad Bloom (92) [8.3].

100. Encore! Encore! (98) [8.0].

100. Buddy Faro (102) [8.2].

103. Trinity (98) [8.0].

103. To Have and to Hold (100) [7.8].

103. Payne (103) [8.0].

103. Fox Files (105) [7.9].

103. ABC Saturday Movie (107) [8.0].

103. King of the Hill (109) [8.0].

103. King of the Hill 2 (110) .

110. 7th Heaven (112) [7.6].

111. World's Funniest! 1/3(tue.) (114) [7.3].

112. Lateline (107) [7.2].

112. Vengeance unlimited (113) .

112. America's Home Videos (114) [7.0].

112. World's Funniest! (116) [7.1].

116. News: Crime & Justice (110) [6.8].

117. Millennium (117)[6.5].

118. Costello (117) [6.3].

119. Fantasy Island (121) [6.0].

120. Cupid (119) [5.8].

120. Wind on Water (119) [5.8].

122. Brimstone (122) [5.5].

123. Dawson's Creek (122) [5.4].

123. Charmed (124) [5.3].

123. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (125) [5.2].

126. The Big Moment (126) [5.1].

126. Holding the Baby (126) [5.1].

128. Star Trek: Voyager (126) [5.0].

129. Felicity (129) [4.3].

130. Getting Personal (130) [4.1].

130. Living in Captivity (131) [4.1].

130. Steve Harvey Show (131) [4.0].

130.Rrescue 77 (133) [4.0].

134. Jamie Foxx show (133) [3.8].

134. Smart Guy (133) [3.9].

136. For Your Love (136) [3.6].

136. Sister, Sister (136) [3.6].

136. 7th Heaven Beginnings (138) [3.5].

136. Wayans Bros. (138) [3.4].

140. Moesha (140) [3.3].

140. Unhappily Ever After (140)[3.3].

140. 7 Days (142) [3.3].

140. Dilbert (144) [3.3].

144. Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane (142) [3.1].

145. Smart Guy(144) [2.9].

145. Hyperion Bay (146) [2.9].

145. Clueless (147) [2.8].

148. Army Show (147)[2.6].

148. Between Brothers (149) [2.5].

148. Malcolm & Eddie 1/3-8 p.m. (149) [2.5].

148. Redhanded (149) [2.6].

148. UPN Thursday Movie (152) [2.5].

153. Family Rules (152) [2.3].

153. In the House(152) [2.3].

153. Malcolm & Eddie (152)[2.3].

153. Guys Like Us (157) [2.2].

153. The Sentinel (157) [2.2].

158. Malcolm & Eddie (156) [2.1].

158. America's Greatest Pets (157) [2.1].

158. America's Greatest Pets II (160) [2.0].

158. Love Boat: the next wave (160) [2.0].

158. Mercy Point (160) [2.0].

163. Desmond Pfeiffer (163) [1.8].

163. Diresta (163) [1.9].

163. Legacy (163) [1.8].

163. Home Movies (166) [1.7].

167. Reunited (167) [1.4].

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