Amy judged a hit, but Ally oops

NEW YORK (Variety) - The verdict is in on the new CBS drama ``Judging Amy'': It's a hit.

On the second Tuesday of the new season, Nielsen's viewer jury found the Amy Brenneman vehicle guilty on several counts, including winning its 10 p.m. time slot and -- even more importantly -- improving substantially over its week-ago averages.

Nearly as bitchin' Tuesday was the stellar season premiere of Fox's ``That 70s Show,'' which shocked ratings watchers with an unexpected adults 18-49 victory at 8:30 p.m. ABC's ``Dharma & Greg'' also rebounded from a so-so premiere week to score a solid win in that key demographic in its second 9 p.m. faceoff with NBC's ``Will & Grace.''

Less impressive Tuesday was the first outing for ``Ally,'' Fox's attempt to squeeze more ratings mileage out of its Monday hit ``Ally McBeal'' by running a condensed 30-minute version of the original. It finished a weak fourth in its 8:30 p.m. time slot.

Boosted by the strong ratings for ``Judging Amy'' and double-digit tallies for ``JAG'' and ``60 Minutes II,'' CBS won the night in total viewers, and finished a solid second behind ABC in adults 25-54. CBS was up 21% in adults 18-49 vs. the previous week, and up 45% from the same night two years earlier, the last time CBS entered the fall with an all-series lineup on Tuesdays.

ABC topped the all-important adults 18-49 competition.

The night began at 8 p.m. with ``JAG'' soaring to its best-ever homes rating. Over at ABC, ``Spin City'' (11.25 million, 4.9/15 in adults 18-49) closed the gap considerably on NBC's ``Just Shoot Me'' (11.41 million, 5.3/16 in adults 18-49) and moved ahead in households (8.3 vs. 8.0).

``Spin's'' gains helped ABC's 8-10 p.m. comedy block move half a point ahead of NBC's in adults 18-49, though the lead may change hands when ABC's ratings-challenged ``Sports Night'' returns to the schedule next week. Compared with its hot week-earlier season start, NBC's Tuesday comedy block cooled by 25% in adults 18-49 (5.1 vs. 6.8).

Initial results, meanwhile, for ``Ally'' were ho-hum (7.27 million, 3.7/11 in adults 18-49), with the series falling 5% from the disappointing 18-49 average for ``King of the Hill'' in that slot last season (3.7 vs. 3.9). ``Ally'' did manage sizable increases in young-female demos over ``King's'' male-skewing results.

Equally woeful results came from ABC's ``It's Like, You Know...'' (8.33 million viewers, 4.0/11 in adults 18-49), which pulled the network deep into fourth in adults 18-49 for the 8:30 half-hour.

``It's Like'' collapsed opposite hot competition from ``That '70s Show'' (11.26 million, 6.0/17), which scored a Fox slot-record rating for regular series fare.

The hot Tuesday start for ``That '70s Show'' is a vindication for Fox for sticking with the retro-sitcom through a rookie season of uninspiring Nielsens. The network apparently built the show's following over the summer by heavily promoting its Monday run, which included five firstrun airings.

At 9 p.m., ``Dharma & Greg'' (13.31 million viewers, 6.5/17 in adults 18-49) brushed off the weak ``It's Like'' lead-in and moved ahead of NBC's ``Will & Grace'' (12.99 million, 6.1/16 in adults 18-49) in adults 18-49.

A ``Dharma'' rerun at 9:30 (13.54 million, 7.0/18 in adults 18-49) dealt another crushing blow to the survival hopes of NBC's ``Mike O'Malley Show'' (8.40 million, 4.0/10 in adults 18-49). ``O'Malley'' plunged to fourth that half-hour in the 18-49 demo, retaining less than 70% of its leadin.

At 10 p.m., ABC's ``Once and Again'' (13.45 million, 6.9/19 in adults 18-49) and CBS' ``Judging Amy'' (15.70 million, 5.3/15) are looking like twin rookie-drama successes in that hour, though ``Once'' is still slated to make room for ``NYPD Blue'' in November.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country's TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point represents 1.239 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it's measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the time slot involved.