By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 05, 2002 11:00 AM

The narrowing of the race on Fox’s “American Idol” captured national attention and strong ratings to become the No. 1 and No. 2 shows last week, according to the latest Nielsen figures.

Nearly 17 million fans of Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini tuned in.

On cable, last Thursday’s MTV’s “Video Music Awards” attracted just under 12 million viewers, surpassing all but eight broadcast shows in primetime last week.

For the week, CBS averaged 7.6 million viewers; NBC, 7.4 million; ABC, 6.8 million; Fox, 6.5 million; UPN, 3.1 million; the WB, 2.6 million; and Pax TV, 1.1 million.

In terms of viewers, the Top 10 network shows for the week of Aug. 26-Sept. 1 were as follows:

1. “American Idol,” Wednesday, Fox, 16.9 million viewers
2 “American Idol,” Tuesday, Fox, 15 million
3 “Everybody Loves Raymond,” CBS, 14.7 million
4 “CSI,” Monday, CBS, 14 million
5. :CSI,” CBS, 13.3 million
6. “Law and Order,” NBC, 12.9 million
7. “Dog Eat Dog,” NBC, 12.1 million
8. “Dateline NBC,” Tuesday, NBC, 12 million
9. “NFL Pre-Season Football,” ABC, 11.3 million
10. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.8 million