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ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas' return from rehab for alcoholism interests TV viewers

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Television news viewers proved curious about ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas' battle with alcoholism, with her return to "20/20" on Friday night earning the newsmagazine's biggest audience in four years.

The Nielsen company said an estimated 8.3 million people saw Vargas talk about last fall's stint in rehab, putting the show among the 20 most-viewed of the week. Vargas said it took her years to admit her problem with excessive wine-drinking. She said she was angry at first when her husband, singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, told her she had a problem, but he was right.

Vargas also spoke to George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" on Friday about her treatment. The morning show averaged more than 6 million viewers that day, its largest audience of the week and 10 per cent more than it reached the previous Friday, Nielsen said.

Several ABC News personalities have publicly shared stories about their medical issues — including "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts and her battle against a blood and bone marrow disease, and "GMA" correspondent Amy Robach's treatment for breast cancer — and viewers have appreciated the openness.

Sunday's Grammy Awards telecast on CBS had twice as many viewers as any other program last week, with its second-biggest audience since 1993. It continues a trend where live events are major audience-grabbers, partly because of the way they drive social media conversation.

The "60 Minutes" telecast that aired just prior to the Grammys, which featured "Tonight" show host Jay Leno's exit interview with Steve Kroft, was the second most-popular show on TV last week.

Fox's premiere of Greg Kinnear's new drama, "Rake," got off to a slow start with just under 7 million viewers. To blunt the impact of "Rake," CBS scheduled a special episode of TV's most popular comedy, "The Big Bang Theory," directly against it.

CBS easily won the week in prime time, averaging 11.3 million viewers. Fox had 6.1 million viewers, NBC had 6 million, ABC had 5.4 million, Univision had 2.9 million, the CW had 1.7 million, Telemundo 1.4 million and ION Television 1.3 million.

USA was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.4 million viewers in prime time. History had 2.3 million, Discovery had 2.2 million, The Disney Channel had 2.1 million and TBS had 2 million.

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 10.1 million viewers. ABC's "World News" was second with 9.2 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.9 million viewers.

For the week of Jan. 20-26, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Grammy Awards, CBS, 28.51 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 14.31 million; "NCIS," CBS, 14.2 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 13.29 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 12.94 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 12.39 million; NFL Pro Bowl, NBC, 11.38 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 10.42 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 10.35 million; "The Big Bang Theory" (Thursday, 9 p.m.), CBS, 9.881 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

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