IT'S THE SUPEREST!

When final national figures for NBC's telecast of the Super Bowl were tallied on Tuesday, Nielsen was forced to revise its numbers upwards -- way upwards. According to the ratings outfit, the telecast actually averaged 98.7 million viewers, ahead of last year's record setter, which drew 97.5 million. While it was the most-watched Super Bowl in history (some 151.6 million viewed at least part of the telecast), the tally fell short of the 106 million who tuned in to the 1983 series finale of M*A*S*H*, which drew 106 million, making it the most-watched television show in U.S. history. It was not clear why the preliminary figures for this year's Super Bowl were so far off the mark. In a statement, NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel said, "Nielsen agrees there was a problem that caused an enormous disparity in the preliminary and final numbers. They are looking into it. But the final report card is accurate." An episode of The Office, which followed the Super Bowl telecast Sunday, pulled in 22.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched entertainment show of the season, except for the first two episodes of American Idol. It also failed to attract as big an audience as Fox's House did following the Super Bowl last year.

PEACOCK STRUTS AGAIN

Thanks to its must-see-TV telecast of the Super Bowl, NBC returned to first place in the weekly Nielsen ratings last week. The network, which has been relegated to last place throughout most of the regular season, also scored with the Super Bowl post-game show and an edition of The Office, which also ran following the game. The only non-Super Bowl-related telecast to land in the top-20 for the network was an episode of The Biggest Loser, which landed at No. 18 on the list with 12.2 million viewers. For the week, NBC registered a 10.3 rating and a 16 share. Fox followed with a 6.5/10, edging out CBS with a 6.0/10. ABC was far behind with an average 3.7/6.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Super Bowl XIII, NBC, 42.0/64; 2. Super Bowl Post-Game, NBC, 25.7/42; 3. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.0/23; 4. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 13.7/20; 5. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 13.6/21; 6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.0/18; 7. NCIS, CBS, 11.6/17; 7. The Office (Sunday), NBC, 11.6/21; 9. The Mentalist, CBS, 9.6/14; 10. House, Fox, 9.3/14.

IDOL RETURNS TO HOLLYWOOD

American Idol returned early to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood Tuesday, and 26.28 million people tuned in to watch, according to overnight Nielsen ratings. Surprisingly a repeat of NCIS offered solid competition as it drew 14.36 million viewers, about what it has been averaging for all-new shows. NBC's The Biggest Loser also drew respectable ratings against Idol with 8.92 million viewers. CBS took over first place at 9:00 p.m., as a repeat of The Mentalist attracted 15 million viewers, putting it ahead of Idol lead-out Fringe, with 13.04 million.

MSNBC SAYS IT CAN'T AIR PHELPS PHOTO

Although it was posted all over the Internet and appeared on numerous newscasts and morning talk shows, the photo of Michael Phelps taking a hit of marijuana from a bong at a college party in North Carolina could not be shown on MSNBC Tuesday. While the photo showed up on NBC's Today show earlier in the day, the sibling cable network was only able to describe it. "We can't show it to you," MSNBC anchor Norah O'Donnell told her audience. An NBC spokesperson later told the TVNewser website that NBC had received permission from the British tabloid News of the World once only (without charge). Although U.S. broadcast networks insist they do not pay for interviews, they often do pay huge sums for photographs and video, and it was not clear why NBC had decided not to pay for use of the Phelps photo. Meanwhile, reports indicated that none of Phelps's sponsors, who include Omega, Speedo, and Hilton Hotels has decided to terminate their contracts with him. However, Sheriff Leon Lott Jr. of Richland County, NC, where the alleged offense occurred, said that he is investigating the matter. In a statement to the syndicated The Insider, Phelps conceded that the photo was authentic and apologized for engaging "in behavior which ... was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment."

COMCAST ATTEMPTS TO PACIFY OFFENDED SUPER BOWL WATCHERS

Comcast has reportedly agreed to offer $10 to any subscriber who was offended by the 30 seconds of porn that inexplicably aired over its cable lines in parts of Arizona during the Super Bowl. (Original reports erroneously indicated that only 10 seconds of porn had aired.) But some subscribers have not been mollified. On the website of KYOA, which carried the telecast in Arizona, one woman wrote, I have a 9 year old young girl that was in the room when this happened. I have had the 'talk' with my daughter before but now I have to extend that conversation to include porn! Ten freaking dollars, are you kidding me?! This is outrageous!" However, Broadcasting & Cable observed that subscriber comments were about evenly split between the outraged and those who laughed it all off. Comcast had no explanation of how its system was hacked.