NEW YORK -- NBC was No. 1 in the weekly ratings race for the 23rd consecutive week, but CBS found that it pays to put 'naked' in the title of a Sunday movie, according to ratings reported Tuesday.
NBC had the 1988-89 network television season locked up from its uneven, strike-plagued start, but CBS came in second again last week, will come in second behind NBC in the February sweeps and continues to challenge ABC for the No. 2 spot for the season.
The big CBS strength is Sunday night, America's favorite TV viewing night. The network starts off strong with '60 Minutes,' and delivers a strong audience to its Sunday movie, thanks to 'Murder, She Wrote.'
The movie last week was 'Naked Lie,' which lived up to its title to the full extent allowed by the ever-more-permissive program practices people. 'Naked Lie' came in ninth for the week, compared to 36th for NBC's 'The Revenge of Al Capone,' and 38th for ABC's 'Get Smart, Again.'
CBS also was able to capture Wednesday night, thanks to its airing of the Grammy awards, which ranked 26th, and Friday, with a special two-hour version of 'Dallas,' the first and most successful of the prime time soaps.
NBC won Monday with Charlton Heston in 'Original Sin' -- 22nd place because 'sin' sells almost as well in the title as 'naked.' NBC also took Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
It was a bad week for ABC, which won no nights despite two shows in the top 10 -- 'Roseanne' in third place and 'Who's the Boss?' in eighth. 'Gideon Oliver,' the third of the rotating series that comprise its Monday Mystery Movie, tied for 34th.
The networks disagree on when the current season started -- NBC contends the season as beginning Sept. 19, a year after the start of the previous season. ABC and CBS have contended the season did not start until Oct. 24, because the Writers Guild strike delayed the debuts of new series.
In the season as defined by ABC-CBS, ABC and CBS are tied, while in the season according to NBC, CBS trails by three-tenths of a ratings point -- not an easy catch-up position this late in the game.
In the NBC version, NBC leads with a 16.2 rating and a 26 share. ABC is second with a 12.9 rating and a 21 share and CBS comes in last with a 12.6 rating and a 20 share.
In the alternative count, NBC wins with a 15.8 rating and a 26 share, while ABC and CBS are tied, each with a 12.9 rating and a 21 share.
ABC was third with an 11.7 rating and a 19 share.
'CBS Evening News' with Dan Rather held onto first place in the tight news category, winning with an 11.7 rating. ABC's 'World News Tonight' with Peter Jennings was second with an 11.5 rating, while 'NBC Nightly News' with Tom Brokaw was right behind with an 11.0 rating. All three had a 20 share.
Each ratings point represents about 904,000 households and a share is the percentage of TV sets tuned to a particular show.
The top 10 prime time shows for the week ending Feb. 26, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., were:
1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Different World (NBC)
3. Roseanne (ABC)
4. 60 Minutes (CBS)
5 Cheers (NBC)
6. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
7. Golden Girls (NBC)
8. Who's The Boss? (ABC)
9. Naked Lie (CBS)