AFTER FOUR YEARS, NCIS MAKES IT TO THE TOP

CBS's NCIS, always a strong if unheralded performer for the network, managed to make it to the top of the Nielsen ratings list for the first time in its four-season run last week. Analysts pointed out, however,that it had little competition, given the fact that most of the usual big ratings winners were either being preempted, rerun, or on hiatus. The win helped CBS win not only the crown as the most-watched network --something that it has accomplished every week this season -- but also as the leader among viewers 18-49, an accomplishment it only sporadically achieves. Also helping the network was the finale of Survivor: Cook Islands. Ratings for the finale were down from previous years due to the fact that it had to compete against NBC's Sunday Night Football for the first time, with the episode drawing 16.5 million versus 21 million last year. CBS averaged a 7.7 rating and a 13 share for the week. NBC placed second with a 4.9/8. ABC's ratings sank with an average 5.9 million, while Fox trailed with a 1.7 rating.The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. NCIS, CBS, 10.9/17; 2. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.5/17; 3. CSI: NY, CBS, 10.3/17; 3. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 10.3/16; 5. Criminal Minds, CBS, 10.2/16; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.0/15; 7. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 9.9/16; 8. House, Fox, 9.8/15; 9. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.6/15; 10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9.4/16.

TRUMP GIVES MISS USA A "SECOND CHANCE"

Donald Trump, who had been widely expected to fire this year's Miss USA winner -- he owns the beauty pageant -- following reports that she had been drinking heavily and otherwise misbehaving, surprised reporters Tuesday by announcing that he was going to allow her to keep her crown. "I've always been a believer in second chances," Trump told reporters in New York after meeting with the the beauty pageant winner, Tara Conner. He said she would be entering rehab. Appearing with Trump at the news conference, Conner told him, "You'll never know what this means to me and I swear I will not let you down." Meanwhile, E! Entertainment channel said that it plans to rebroadcast its documentary Uncovered: Hidden Lives of Miss USA tonight (Wednesday). According to the TMZ website, Tara is shown receiving "some chilly words of advice from a pageant official moments after winning: "If you act up, you and me in the bathroom -- headlock!"

ARENA FOOTBALL TO LIVE ON -- THANKS TO ESPN

ESPN has given the Arena Football League a new lease on life following NBC's decision last July to drop AFL telecasts because of low ratings. In its final season on NBC, AFL games drew an average 0.9 rating, with the Arena Bowl championship game in June registering only an 0.7. NBC had aired Arena Football during the eight years that it did not air NFL games, but it returned to big-time football this season with Sunday Night Football. ESPN, which like NBC has taken a small stake in the league, plans to broadcast AFL games on Monday nights, at the same time it currently carries Monday Night Football, which has drawn some of the biggest cable ratings of the season. Two games will also be carried by ABC, the season-opener and the Arena Bowl game.

REGAN TO SUE HARPERCOLLINS

Attorney Bert Fields, who is representing publisher Judith Regan, said Tuesday that he plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against HarperCollins on her behalf. In an interview with Reuters, Fields said, "They gave my client no severance, no notice, no warning and no statements of what she did. They had armed guards come and close down her office. She could not contact me because my phone number was in her computer which was closed by the storm troopers. ... She is very unhappy with the smear campaign against her. She is prepared to fight." Regan was abruptly terminated two weeks after HarperCollins pulled the plug on her plans to publish a book by O.J. Simpson titled If I Did It and canceled a TV special on Fox in which Regan interviewed Simpson about the book. According to HarperCollins, she subsequently lambasted top executives of the company in a conversation with a company attorney, calling them part of a "Jewish cabal" and making other anti-Semitic remarks. Fields, who is Jewish, told Reuters: "It is not true that my client made anti-Semitic remarks. She is not an anti-Semite. She has not got an anti-Semitic bone in her body."

Brian B.