“Dancing” debuts strong


Season 8 of “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC set a new season debut record, with 22.5 million viewers Monday evening. It didn’t hurt that there was some drama building up to the first show of the new season, with two celebrity contestants knocked out by injuries before taking to the ballroom floor – and their last-minute replacements kept a closely guarded secret.

The Alphabet Net was bubbling with pride as it spun the numbers:

“Despite airing opposite stiff all-original competition in its eighth season premiere, including CBS’ 8-10 pm comedy block, NBC’s Heroes and Chuck and Fox’s House and 24, ABC’s broad appealing Dancing with the Stars drew an average audience of 22.5 million viewers and a 5.9 rating, 15 share in Adults 18-49 to emerge as Monday’s  #1 TV program in viewers and young adults.  Dancing with the Stars won each of its half-hours and soared to the top of its time period, outdrawing second-place Fox by 10.8 million viewers and by 40% in Adults 18-49. 

DWTS was up over its year-ago season opener   (3/17/08) by 1.3 million viewers and by 5% in Adults 18-49 .  In fact, Dancing turned in its most-watched season open ever and second-highest ever in Adults 18-49.  Excluding only the 2001 Rose Bowl, Dancing with the Stars produced ABC’s biggest audience in the time slot in nearly 9 years – since 5/1/00.  Furthermore, excluding the Academy Awards, the 8th season premiere represented ABC’s most-watched telecast in over 1 year – since 11/27/07.”  

With the new drama “Castle” drawing 11.6 million viewers, ABC won Monday night in total viewers and Adults 18-49. In fact, it was the network’s biggest audience draw on a Monday night since May 15, 2006. At least, that’s what ABC said – and we’re not going to go look it up.

Although the premiere of Castle was beaten by “CSI: Miami” on CBS, ABC was still hailing it as the network’s most-watched drama telecast in the 10:00 pm Monday slot in nine years.

As for the DWTS suspense: ABC put Melissa Rycroft back on the small screen just days after she was dumped by her fiancée in the “After the Rose” follow-up to the reality series “The Bachelor.” She replaced injured Nancy O’Dell from “Access Hollywood.” Former Playboy Playmate Holly Madison, who was in the E! reality series “The Girls Next Door,” replaced singer/songwriter Jewel, who was also injured in rehearsal.

RBR/TVBR observation: It’s the guessing game that everyone loves to play. When will “American Idol” fade for Fox and when will “Dancing with the Stars” fade for ABC? Given the current advertising recession, the good news for both networks is – not in 2009.