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NBC's 'Meet the Press' clings to ratings lead but ABC, CBS close fast

July 31, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Hillary-clinton The Sunday morning talk show race is neck and neck, but "Meet the Press" continues to cling weakly to the top spot.

Last Sunday, NBC's flagship political program had 2.96 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on ABC followed closely with 2.64 million, and "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" on CBS had 2.47 million.

Oh, and Fox apparently has a show, too. "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace didn't break a million.

The closeness of these shows' ratings is surprising considering the divides between high-profile guests. Stephanopoulos chatted with a couple of congressmen and left-wing blogger Arianna Huffington, and Schieffer had a White House advisor.

You gonna be late for church for that?

Meanwhile, David Gregory interviewed the secretary of State, who worked so closely with Stephanopoulos in the Clinton White House. C'mon, NBC. You have Hillary Clinton, a household name, and can only scrap together a 300,000-viewer lead?

It has been almost three months since we noted that NBC's once-unstoppable, now-Tim-Russert-less "Meet the Press" was falling from viewing grace.

Things were markedly different more than a year ago when Russert was hosting the show. Now, we're not saying Stephanopoulos hasn't recently stepped up his elfish charm, but forgive us if NBC's current hard-working host isn't keeping us as engaged.

Still, there's something to be said about Gregory's show keeping that first-place lead week after week -- as long as, by the way, he's not getting bumped off the air for apolitical tennis matches. (BTW, as regulars know, we post the show guest lineups every Saturday at noon Pacific time.)

Which one do you watch -- and why?

-- Mark Milian

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Photo credit: William B. Plowman / Meet the Press