Cable skein sees out-of-this-world ratings

HOLLYWOOD — More than 7.4 million viewers tuned in to see 4,400 alien abductees crash-land back on Earth in USA’s sci-fi drama “The 4400.”

Sunday-night bow achieved out-of-orbit ratings, drawing basic cable’s biggest series premiere aud ever.

Five-part limited series catapulted USA to top primetime rankings in basic cabler for the week in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and total viewers.

In the key adults 18-49 demographic, 9 p.m. premiere beat competish from all the broadcast webs except NBC. In total viewers, “The 4400” topped all programming on ABC, Fox and the WB.

Program notched a strong 2.8 national rating/8 share in 18-49 and a 3.1/8 in 25-54, according to Nielsen. It did especially well in female demos (3.2/9 in 18-49, 3.4/8 in 25-54).

USA/Sci Fi prexy Bonnie Hammer attributed part of the show’s boffo tally to the marketing prowess of the parent company. Earlier synergistic efforts were not as encouraging, however: June’s heavily promoted Sci Fi five-parter “Five Days to Midnight” yielded disappointing results.

Preem gives USA four of the top five basic cable series premieres, including “The Dead Zone” (6.4 million), “Peacemakers” (5.2 million) and “Monk” (4.8 million) — though it should be noted that the well-received event could very well be counted as a miniseries as it is just five episodes long. Other rankers involve recurring seasons and many more episodes.

No word yet on whether USA will produce additional episodes of the series, though it is an option.

Hammer fought for the project to air on Sci Fi, which she formerly ran alone before acquiring her USA title, but due to financial and time restraints it ultimately ended up at USA.

Topper also called a reairing of the series on Sci Fi Channel a safe bet. “It wouldn’t be surprising to me if (Sci Fi) took a run later this year,” Hammer said.

“The 4400,” centered on the drama that ensues after 4,400 missing persons mysteriously return to Earth, was produced by Viacom Prods. in association with American Zoetrope and Renegade 83. Rene Echevarria (“Dark Angel”), Maira Suro (“Platinum”) and Ira Steven Behr (“The Twilight Zone”) are exec producers.

Subsequent four episodes of “The 4400” will air Sundays at 9 p.m.

Elsewhere, following an aggressive campaign for younger women, Lifetime’s “Missing” and “Wild Card” grabbed respectable crowds for the series’ respective second-season bows.

On Saturday, “Missing” grabbed 2.6 million overall viewers — down from the series premiere total of 3.3 million. The 10 p.m. mystery featuring Vivica A. Fox (who replaced original star Gloria Reuben) posted a strong female demos (1.2/4 in 18-49 and 1.3/4 in 25-54).

Season opener of “Wild Card” at 10 p.m. didn’t fare quite as well Sunday, losing some steam to its lead-in (an episode of “Strong Medicine” that drew 2.4 million). Premiere attracted 2.2 million viewers and netted a 0.9/3 in women 18-49 and a 1.2/3 in women 25-54. Hour, starring Joely Fisher as a Chicago-based insurance investigator, originally bowed to 2.8 million viewers and averaged 2.1 million in its first 18-episode cycle.

Elsewhere Sunday, the preem of E! Entertainment TV’s reality plastic surgery skein “Dr. 90210” at 10 p.m. sewed up 665,000 viewers — a tally on par with the bow of Bravo’s big summer series “Blow Out” (645,000). “Dr. 90210” notched a 0.3/1 in E!’s target 18-34 and 18-49 demos.

And on Monday, MTV’s premiere of Andy Dick-led reality show “The Assistant” grabbed 1.6 million total viewers, while sister net VH1 rolled out the first two installments of multipart spec “I Love the ’90s.” First hour averaged 1.6 million viewers, with the second building to 1.8 million, making for the most watched preem in the “I Love the …” franchise.

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