Ally tackles gridcast in season premiere

By Jenny Hontz

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Fox's powerful sophomore season premiere of ``Ally McBeal'' beat ABC's ``Monday Night Football'' in the 9-10 p.m. time slot among the key adults 18-49 demographic for the first time ever.

``Ally'' scored a 10.9 rating and 16 share in households, which was up a stunning 49% from its premiere last year and 33% from its average during the 1997-98 season. It was the highest-rated episode since March 9, when it didn't have to compete against football.

In adults 18-49, ``Ally'' rated an 8.3, edging out football (8.1) for the hour by 3%. The last time anyone beat ``Monday Night Football'' in this group was Nov. 24, when Fox aired its first wildly successful ``Magic's Greatest Secrets Revealed'' special. Its adults 18-49 season premiere rating outperformed last year's bow by 60% and last season's average by 30%.

Last season ``Ally'' was considered an alternative to football, but this year the show is actually stealing viewers away.

Monday's Washington vs. San Francisco game rated a 12.7/21 in homes, down 14% from the debut game last week and 5% from game two last year, making it the lowest-rated game since Dec. 23, 1996. Among adults 18-49 (7.6/20), football tumbled 22% from last week and 4% from game two last season.

The return of ``Ally McBeal'' also lifted ratings for Fox's 8 p.m. Monday stalwart, ``Melrose Place,'' to its highest since its summer premiere.

In another strange twist on the evening, CBS defeated NBC on a Monday night among adults 18-49 for the first time since June 1997. NBC, which aired a movie (``Someone to Love Me,'' starring Lynda Carter) instead of sitcoms and ``Dateline,'' placed last among the Big Four in adults 18-49 every half-hour.