NEW YORK -- 'East of Eden,' Parts II and III, delivered the audience last week, sending ABC to the top of the Nielsen ratings heap for the first time since last Dec. 7.
The big John Steinbeck saga picked up a rating of 28.1 for its second installment and 26.4 for the finish, placing both episodes in the top 10 to help ABC edge perenniel frontrunner CBS 20.8 to 19.1 for the week. NBC was a distant third with 16.9.
The network estimated that 60 million people watched some or all of the eight-hour epic.
The direct hit by 'Eden' shook up the usual ranking in the top 10, plunging CBS's '60 Minutes' into a 24.3 rating tie for seventh place with ABC's 'Three's Company.' ABC's competing news magazine, '20-20,' rose to a tie for 15th place with the network's own 'That's Incredible.' Both rated 21.8. Overall, victorious ABC placed 11 programs in the Nielsen Top 20.
CBS continued to lead the season to date, if the regular season consists of 16 weeks, from October, as CBS and ABC both claim. On that scale, it was CBS, 20.1, ABC, 18.5 and NBC, 17.2. NBC, of course, disputes the figures, claiming the season actually began Sept. 15, when ABC and CBS lay hamstrung by the actors' strike while NBC dipped into a well-stocked movie arsenal to dominate the ratings race.
By NBC's reckoning, CBS holds a 19.0 rating for the season while ABC and NBC are tied at 18.1 each. A network spokesman said that would mark NBC's nearest approach to first place since the 1974-1975 season.
The top 10 network programs for the week ending Feb. 15, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., were:
1. Dallas (CBS).
2. East of Eden, Part II (ABC).
3. Dukes of Hazzard (CBS).
4. East of Eden, Part III (ABC).
5. Little House on the Prairie (NBC).
6. M-A-S-H (CBS)
7. Three's Company (ABC).
60 Minutes (CBS).
9. Too Close for Comfort (ABC).
10. Hart to Hart (ABC).