Culture | The top 5 TV series in popularity as measured by the most recently available A.C. Nielsen ratings Each share represents average prime-time audience, approximately 1,008,000 households, or about 1 percent of the televisions in use at the time the show airs

Issue: "1st-grade murder," March 11, 2000
ER NBC, Thursday nights: 20.9 share
Ensemble cast portrays doctors, nurses, and other workers in a big-city emergency room.

God is mostly left out of the continual life-and-death drama the show spotlights.

Plenty of violence, blood, mature situations, and gurneys full of liberal platitudes.

Who wants to be a millionaire? ABC, Tuesday: 19.2 share; Sunday: 17.8 share; Thursday: 17.7 share
A lowbrow Jeopardy for the television generation; a quiz show with questions so easy its own insurance carrier has sued.

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If only I had been in that hot seat ... I knew Mrs. Howell's first name!


Friends NBC, Thursday nights:15.4 share
A tight group of New Yorkers dress well, act badly, and complain a lot.

Morality is made up as we go along; relationships matter more than right and wrong.

Sexual situations, occasional profanity. Very sympathetic portrayal of a lesbian quasi-marriage.

60 Minutes CBS, Sunday nights: 14.9 share
News magazine that harrumphs about all the favorite liberal causes: consumer protection, gun control, homosexual rights, and so on.

We're objective reporters-honest we are.

Andy Rooney

Frasier NBC, Thursday nights: 14.1 share
The shrink from Cheers has divorced and moved to Seattle to host a radio show.

Marriages may come and go, but analysis is forever.

Unrelenting sexual innuendo, some profanity. And Daphne

Do not look to The Practice, the L.A. Law for the new millennium, for realism. In this top-10 show's sophomore season, the story lines have included the following:
  • A physician "finds" a human head in his medical bag; after interminable plot twists, it turns out that, yes, he really did dress up as a nun and murder people.
  • Henry Winkler appears as a dentist with a "crush fetish" (he likes seeing women stomp on bugs); after a murder, a suicide, and a prison rape, the attorneys cut a deal for him with the DA.
  • Jimmy, the blue-collar criminal-defense attorney (and purportedly faithful Catholic), goes to court to try to help his mother marry her lesbian lover.
  • The Boston lawyers travel to L.A. to defend a murder suspect-and one of the lawyers has a brainstorm during closing arguments; she proves that the suspect's wife framed him, because the wife's eyeglasses are just like the victim's eyeglasses. Don't forget the geriatric, nymphomaniac judge, who has her own nun outfit; the ever angry police detectives who spend their time either fabricating evidence or lying on the witness stand; and the parade of sleazy criminal clients who, every week, force the lawyers to rethink their commitment to criminal-defense work and the legitimacy of the legal system. Week in and week out. The series has become both tired and tiring-even Entertainment Weekly asked last month, "When did The Practice turn into such a screechy, contrived shouting match of a show?" Truth is, it was never anything but. And if the plot lines get any more ridiculous, it will be downright criminal.


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