‘Enterprise’ a star player for UPN

Show warps past season bows, reality fare

HOLLYWOOD — “Enterprise” may be no “Voyager,” but its series premiere ratings still lifted UPN to a new ratings frontier.

Wednesday’s two-hour preem of “Enterprise,” a prequel to the original “Star Trek” skein that stars Scott Bakula, averaged a hearty 12.54 million viewers, a 6.3 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 and a 5.2/15 in A18-34 — good enough to win the time period in these key measures, which UPN hasn’t come close to achieving with its most popular current program, “WWF Smackdown!”

Net won from 8-10 p.m. in many local markets, including New York, San Francisco and Detroit.

“Enterprise” fared best, of course, among male demos, beaming up to a 7.2/19 in men 18-49 and an 8.3/19 in men 25-54. But preem also placed a strong second in women 18-49 (5.4/13).

It’s the second-biggest night in UPN history, behind only the premiere of “Star Trek: Voyager” (21.27m, 11.5/24 in A18-49), the program that launched the net with furious fanfare in January 1995.

Fantastical pair

Numbers are even more impressive given UPN’s relatively low national clearance (it aired in only 82% of the country) and limited promotional power. Bow positions UPN for ratings growth this season, as “Enterprise” teams with the acquisition of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for a strong one-two midweek punch.

“Enterprise” was the only new program to bow Wednesday, a night that also saw ABC score big with the return of “My Wife and Kids,” NBC’s “Law & Order” rise to new ratings heights in its 12th season opener and Fox’s “Love Cruise” surprisingly emerge as the strongest performing of the night’s three unscripted series — topping CBS’ fading “Amazing Race.”

ABC placed second to UPN on the night in 18-49 (5.0/13), with NBC keeping close (4.9/12) almost entirely on the strength of “Law & Order” (20.68 million, 7.5/20 in A18-49), which drew the largest premiere audience in its 12-year history.

“Love Cruise” (7.32m, 4.0/10 in A18-49) improved by 11% in 18-49 vs. its premiere Tuesday. Seven-episode series placed second in adults 18-34 (5.2/14) and was at least partly to blame for the rather steep decline of CBS’ competing reality series, “Amazing Race” (8.62m, 3.6/9 in A18-49).

Reality sinks in

Third seg of “Race,” facing its first significant original programming, fell week to week by 22% in 18-49 to fourth place. Series next week must also face the season’s first original episode of “The West Wing.”

NBC’s unscripted series “Lost” (5.94m, 2.6/7 in A18-49) also struggled, losing 37% of its 18-49 first-week aud. Series had been preempted for two weeks and will wrap its first three-episode arc next week.

At CBS, despite the slip by “Race,” 10 p.m. drama “Wolf Lake” (7.54m, 3.1/8 in A18-49) held up pretty well in its second try, especially given that “Law & Order” was back in firstrun.

“Wolf” was down 9% in adults 18-49 week to week (3.1 vs. 3.4) but the dropoffs were mostly among viewers 35-49, mostly to “Law.” Among persons 12-34, “Wolf” was up slightly.

Among returning shows premiering Wednesday, ABC’s Damon Wayans laffer “My Wife and Kids” (12.26m, 5.5/15 in A18-49) looked best, winning the 18-49 comedy battle by 4 shares over Fox. It’s ABC’s best score in the hour since “Wife’s” preem in March.

Fox held up pretty well at 8 with a special original of “That ’70s Show” (8.23m, 4.3/12 in A18-49) but went from 2 shares out to 6 shares behind “Wife” at 8:30, as “Grounded for Life” (7.69m, 3.9/10) couldn’t keep up with the ABC laffer’s strong second half.

‘Drew’ draw wanes

ABC’s “The Drew Carey Show” placed second to UPN at 9 with its one-hour preem (4.9/12) but dropped by 15% on the half-hour — a sign that viewers may not have loved the laffer’s unusual seg, which featured a “back to school” theme and included spoofs on health ed films and cheerleaders.

Comparisons with a year ago are again tricky on this night, as baseball and presidential debates made a mess of premieres on the equivalent night in 2000. CBS and Fox were up in adults 18-49 vs. the first Wednesday last season, while ABC and NBC were down.

Next Wednesday, the WB bows “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” while UPN brings back second-year drama “Special Unit 2” at 9, after “Enterprise” in its regular slot.

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