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Penultimate ‘Seinfeld’ Sets Record

May 13, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Television viewers are finally getting the message _ as if they could miss it _ that ``Seinfeld″ is going.

For months after Jerry Seinfeld’s Christmas announcement that he was quitting his top-rated sitcom, ratings for the show barely budged. But now viewers are getting nostalgic, and rewarded last Thursday’s penultimate ``Seinfeld″ with its best ratings ever.

The 38.8 million viewers last week beat the previous record, set last September. It’s a record that will last exactly a week, with the final ``Seinfeld″ being broadcast this Thursday night.

``Seinfeld″ wasn’t funny to everyone last week, however. Puerto Rican groups protested its depiction of Kramer accidentally setting the Puerto Rican flag on fire, prompting an apology from NBC to anyone who was offended.

NBC easily won another week during the important May ``sweeps″ period used to set local advertising rates. For the week, NBC had a 10.4 rating and 18 share. CBS was second with an 8.5 rating and 15 share, ABC had a 7.7 rating and 13 share and Fox had a 6.8 rating and 12 share.

Among the emerging networks, the WB had a 3.1 rating and 5 share, while UPN was at 2.5 and 4, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday.

Gangsters, in the form of NBC’s ``Witness to the Mob″ miniseries, did better than the first part of CBS’s ``Only Love″ on Sunday night. The second part of ``The Last Don II″ finished tied for 19th, a minor disappointment for CBS.

The one-hour cliffhanger season finale of ``Friends″ on NBC drew that series’ third highest rating ever.

Not all of NBC’s news was good. The network paid Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt big money to come back for another season of ``Mad About You,″ but the comedy finished tied for 36th last week. It was beaten in its time slot by the drama, ``JAG,″ which was picked up by CBS after being dumped by NBC.

Fox’s ``Ally McBeal″ finished 14th for the week, that comedy’s highest ranking ever.

NBC’s ``Nightly News″ had a 7.3 rating and 17 share, besting the ``CBS Evening News,″ which had a 7.1 rating and 16 share. CBS, however, had more viewers than NBC despite the lower rating, indicating that more people watched Dan Rather while alone. ABC’s ``World News Tonight″ was a close third with a 7.0 rating and 16 share.

A rating point represents 980,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 98 million TV homes. Share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of May 4-10, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were: ``Seinfeld,″ NBC, 24.8; ``ER,″ NBC, 21.9; ``Friends,″ NBC, 21.2; ``Veronica’s Closet,″ NBC, 17.8; ``Touched By an Angel,″ CBS, 12.8; ``Dateline NBC-Monday,″ NBC, 12.4; ``Frasier,″ NBC, 12.4; ``PrimeTime Live,″ ABC, 11.9; ``60 Minutes,″ CBS, 11.6; ``NBC Sunday Night Movie: Witness to the Mob, Part 1,″ NBC, 11.3.

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