FOX TAKES LEAD AS SEASON'S NO. 1 NETWORK

During a week in which Fox Broadcasting took over the lead from CBS to become the most-watched network of the season, the show that put it there, American Idol, drew more viewers than all its competition combined. Tuesday's "performance" edition drew 29.88 million viewers, while Wednesday's "results" show was not far behind with 27.13 million. It was a different tale with Fox's Canterbury's Law, which drew 7.72 million in its premiere on Monday night and the debut of Friday night's The Return of Jezebel James was shot down with only 3.18 million viewers. For the week, Fox averaged a 6.8 rating and an 11 share, representing 11.3 million viewers. CBS and NBC tied for second place with a 5.0/8, while ABC trailed with a 4.0/7. Meanwhile, veteran media journalist Alex Ben Block, in his online Hollywood Today report, noted that all of the major broadcast networks continue to lose viewers. Citing a report prepared for ad agency Rubin Postaer, Block noted that network viewership is down as much as 12 percent since September, with only ABC showing improvement over last year. The report blames the writers' strike, changes in the way Nielsen measures audiences, a glut of reality shows and the failure of network TV to produce a single breakout hit this season.

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

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.9/26; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.8/24; 3. Law and Order, NBC, 7.9/13; 3. Survivor: Micronesia, CBS, 7.9/13; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.6/12; 6. Lost, ABC, 7.5/12; 7. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 7.4/11; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.3/13; 8. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 7.3/11; 10. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 7.1/11.

FACE OFF: IDOL AND DANCING

On Tuesday night, American Idol went head-to-head against ABC's Dancing With the Stars. The result was that each show saw its ratings eroded somewhat, although Idol remained the clear winner. In the 9:00 p.m. hour, Idol averaged a 15.5 rating and a 23 share, while Dancing pulled a 9.9/15. Without competition from Dancing, Idol peaked at 8:30 p.m. with a 16.3/25, while without competition from Idol, Dancing peaked at 10:00 p.m. with a 12.3/19.

STRIPPER BOOSTS MAGAZINE STRIPS

The latest American Idol scandal -- this one involving top-12 finalist David Hernandez, who, it turned out, had once worked as a stripper at a gay nightclub in Phoenix -- has redounded to the benefit of the tabloid TV shows, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine. The trade publication noted that coverage of the Hernandez story helped boost the number of viewers of CBS's Entertainment Tonight 6 percent above what it was the previous week. NBC's Access Hollywood saw its numbers grow 4 percent (6 percent among women 25-54). CBS's The Insider and Warner Bros.' TMZ were flat, while Inside Edition and Extra were down.

HBO' JOHN ADAMS DRAWS SOLID RATINGS

HBO, which was shaken by the decision of Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss to step down followed by word that it would not put the series 12 Miles of Bad Road from producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason on the air after filming six episodes, finally got some good news Tuesday. Its latest miniseries, John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti in the title role, got off to a solid start with 2.65 million viewers tuning in for the first two episodes Sunday night. The audience figure is regarded as high for a premium cable channel, although it's not nearly as high as several earlier HBO hits.

STAFFERS WHO QUIT EARLY SHOW MAY RETURN

Some staffers of CBS's The Early Show who quit while executive producer Shelley Ross was at the helm may return to the show or withdraw their resignations now that she's gone, according to the online edition of Condé Nast's Portfolio magazine. Citing an unnamed CBS News insider, Portfolio columnist Jeff Bercovici said that morale has risen and "the atmosphere at the show has totally changed" since Ross was replaced by CBS Evening News executive producer Rick Kaplan earlier this month. "You can feel it," the insider told the columnist. "People are alive again. It's really remarkable."

WEB VIDEO ARRIVES ON TIVO

TiVo, which announced last week, that it was adding YouTube to its video offerings (YouTube, in turn, announced that it would offer upgraded resolution of many of its clips), said Tuesday that it will provide software that will allow users to watch many popular online video shows on their TV sets -- beginning immediately. The enhancement will require the installation of TiVo's Desktop Plus PC software (at a one-time charge of $24.95). It also requires a Windows-based PC connected to the Internet.

Brian B.