Reality skein net's most watched show since relaunch

HOLLYWOOD — Despite facing the season premiere of Fox drama “24,” cabler Spike TV’s finale of reality skein “Joe Schmo” delivered strong ratings Tuesday night.

“Schmo” wrapped its season before an average of 3.4 million viewers — more than double the show’s previous high two weeks ago — making it the net’s most watched program since the former TNN relaunched in August, according to Nielsen.

Program averaged 876,000 viewers in the men 18-34 demo, translating to a 2.7 national rating/8 share that should rank third for its hour behind Fox’s “24″ (prelim 4.7/14) and ABC comedies “According to Jim” and “Less Than Perfect” (prelim 3.1/9).

Those 876,000 viewers rep roughly five times the number of men 18-34 than TNN delivered in the same hour a year ago.

“This reality show has taken the genre to a whole new level,” Spike prexy Albie Hecht said. “It has proven that smart, funny and clever will draw the elusive male viewer.”

Despite the success, Hecht wouldn’t commit to a second go-round, but said, “We’re definitely thinking about it. It certainly worked for us.”

Series, in which a phony gameshow with a huge prize has only one contestant who isn’t in on the farce, was created by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese for Stone Stanley Entertainment.

“There is this need out there in the marketplace to have instant hits,” said David Stanley, “but the ones that really work and stick take time to get vested in the characters.”

As for Fox’s “24,” the Emmy-nominated skein kicked off its season with solid but unspectacular numbers (preliminary 4.7/12 in adults 18-49, 11.6 million viewers overall). It tied with ABC’s comedies for the 9 o’clock hour’s lead among adults 18-49, although it was down from its year-ago premiere.

The show didn’t get much in the way of a lead-in, as “Joe Millionaire” placed fourth in 18-49 from 8 to 9 (prelim 2.8/8). A year ago, “That ’70s Show” provided a much stronger lead-in for “24,” which bowed to a 6.5/16 in 18-49 and 13.5 million viewers overall.

Also of note Tuesday was a dominant perf at 8 by ABC’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (prelim 5.0/14 in 18-49). It did a big 19 share in women 18-34 (up from last year’s 17) and drew the spec’s largest overall aud (13.5 million) since 1991.

National ratings for the broadcast networks were delayed until today by Nielsen due to processing errors.

Lily Oei in New York and Denise Martin contributed to this report.

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