By Stephen M. Silverman
March 12, 2003 01:00 PM

Bill Clinton and Bob Dole may have made “60 Minutes” feel like “60 Hours,” but their small-screen debut gave the CBS newsmagazine a bump in the ratings.

Despite the yawning from critics, the political veterans’ new “point-counterpoint” segment helped Sunday’s show pull in 17 million viewers — up about 700,000 viewers from the previous week of “60 Minutes.”

Of course, that still wasn’t enough to beat “American Idol.” Last week’s episodes were the third and fourth most-watched programs of the week, with 18 million and 18.7 million viewers, respectively.

Overall, reality TV continues to have a stranglehold on the Nielsens. CBS’s “Survivor” emerged as the top-ranked show of the week. And NBC’s “Fear Factor” achieved a ratings victory Monday over a fresh episode of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” according to preliminary Nielsen figures.

The 90-minute “Fear Factor,” set in Las Vegas, averaged 18.3 million viewers and was up to 20 million for the final half-hour, despite the competition from Ray Romano. That represented NBC’s first predominance in that timeslot in four years, since the miniseries “Noah’s Ark.”

Not that reality shows are guaranteed winners. FOX’s critically attacked “Married by America” slipped to 6.9 million viewers Monday, plummeting 23 percent from its premiere the previous week.

In other ratings news, TNT scored a victory with Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, which averaged 4.8 million viewers (the five-year-old broadcast’s highest ratings ever), signifying a 28 percent jump in its audience from last year.

The Top 10 primetime shows of last week were as follows:

1. “Survivor: Amazon,” CBS, 23.3 million viewers
2. “CSI,” CBS, 22.9 million
3. “American Idol,” Tuesday, FOX, 18.7 million
4. “American Idol,” Wednesday, FOX, 18 million
5. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 17 million
6. “Everybody Loves Raymond,” CBS, 16.8 million
7. “Fear Factor,” NBC, 16.3 million
8. “Friends,” NBC, 15.6 million
9. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” NBC, 15 million
10. “Still Standing,” CBS, 14.5 million

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