Top 10 most-watched shows of the decade

10:30 AM PST 12/02/2009 by James Hibberd, AP

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A list of the most-watched TV episodes of the decade reads like an exercise in nostalgia. Only one telecast aired after 2006. With the increasingly fractured TV universe, we probably won't see a list quite like this again. Excluding duplicate titles, here are the Top 10 TV series episodes since 2000:

1. "Friends"
Airdate: May 6, 2004
Viewers: 52.5 million

Titled "The Last One," the "Friends" series finale closed a modern-day Golden Age of comedy TV -- and marked the end of the NBC's "Must-See TV" era. At the time, the final "Friends" was the most-watched entertainment telecast in six years, and it has never been surpassed. A finale that stayed true to the series, the "Friends" closer was well-liked by fans and concluded with slow pan across Monica and Chandler's empty apartment.




2. "Survivor: Borneo"
Airdate: Aug. 23, 2000
Viewers: 51.7 million

"Survivor" was a new series that premiered in the dead of summer, yet that didn't stop its August finale from nearly toppling "Friends" as the most-watched telecast of the decade. During its riveting two-hour closer, audiences expected tough whitewater rafting guide Kelly Wiglesworth to triumph over scheming corporate trainer Richard Hatch for the show's $1 million prize -- and then were stunned to discover that on this new TV genre called "reality," sometimes the villain wins.




3. "Joe Millionaire"
Airdate: Feb. 17, 2003
Viewers: 40 million

Fox put a deceptive twist on the reality TV genre with "Joe Millionaire." Why tell contestants the truth when fooling them is so much more fun? With women vying for the attention of fake millionaire Evan Marriott, millions watched the season finale to see which bachelorette he would choose and, more important, how she would react when she learned the truth about his identity. Marriott's relationship with winner Zora Andrich didn't last and, once the show's twist played out, neither did "Joe Millionaire."


 


4. "ER"
Airdate: Feb. 17, 2000
Viewers: 39.4 million

A car crash the previous week left Lucy Knight and John Carter gravely injured after they were attacked by schizophrenic patient. A massive audience tuned in for this episode, "All in the Family," to see who would survive. Considered one of the most tragic episodes of the series.




5. "American Idol"
Airdate: Jan. 16, 2007
Viewers: 38.1 million

The "American Idol" sixth-season premiere marked the pinnacle of the show's popularity, back when each season brought in a higher number than the one before. The Minneapolis opener was for a season won by Jordin Sparks and introduced millions to the name Sanjaya.


 





6. "Grey's Anatomy" post-Super Bowl episode

Airdate: Feb. 5, 2006
Viewers: 38 million

Code black! This post-Super Bowl episode of ABC's medical soap was jam-packed with attention-getting drama for the football crowd -- supply-closet sex, a doctor giving birth, a lesbian shower scene and guest star Christina Ricci as a paramedic with her hand on the trigger of a bomb that's also inside her patient. Ahhh! Sealed "Grey's" hit status and proved girly shows can score ratings touchdowns after the Big Game, too.



7. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"
Airdate: May 3, 2000
Viewers: 36 million

Three "Millionaire" episodes from the same week in May are clumped together on the most-watched list, as Regis-fever swept the country. ABC was criticized for airing this flashy new game show three or even four nights a the week, though we'll never know if the network's scheduling saturation was to blame for the show's demise two years later or if the game show's popularity with viewers was destined to be short-lived.


 


8. "Frasier"
Airdate: May 18, 2000
Viewers: 33.7 million

The seventh-season finale of "Cheers" spinoff "Fraiser" promised to end the suspense over Niles Crane's swooning over physical therapist Daphne Moon. Niles confesses his love for Daphne on the eve of her wedding, only to be rejected ... or so it seemed at first.


 


9. "Everybody Loves Raymond"
Airdate: May 16, 2005
Viewers: 32.9 million

The series finale for Ray Romano's long-running sitcom went off the air as a top 10-ranked show among total viewers. The episode was only subtly climatic, with Ray Barone's routine surgery resulting in a moment where his family thought he might have died. The episode concluded with the Barones talking and laughing around the dinner table.


 


10. "Spin City"
Airdate: May 24, 2000
Viewers: 32.8 million

Yes, we were surprised, too -- and it's not for the series finale. This was the final episode starring Michael J. Fox, who left the show because of his worsening Parkinson's symptoms. Charlie Sheen took the lead role for two more "Spins" seasons, though Fox had a brief return in the final year.



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