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Alphabet dances jig

'Stars' finale waltzes away with ratings win

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” cemented its status as a runaway hit Wednesday night with a finale that drew more than 22 million viewers.

Robust performer is the latest unscripted summer smash on the broadcast nets, but the first in three years — a string that started with ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in 1999 and continued with CBS’ “Survivor” in 2000, NBC’s “Fear Factor” in 2001 and Fox’s “American Idol” in 2002. All eventually shifted to the traditional broadcast season.

The last two summers failed to produce anything close to these sensations, but ABC struck unlikely gold this year with its pairs dancing competish that matched professional hoofers with celebs.

Skein’s concluding hour, in which “General Hospital” actress Kelly Monaco and her partner Alec Mazo were crowned the contest winners, shattered series records and was up 20% week-to-week.

Its average of a 6.7 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 roughly matched what the other five broadcast nets put up Wednesday in the 9 o’clock hour and is the best score for a summer series (Memorial Day-Labor Day) since the penultimate week of the inaugural “American Idol” in August 2002.

Among all telecasts this summer, only Game 7 of the NBA Finals on ABC last month garnered a higher 18-49 rating (7.6/23).

In total viewers, its 22.36 million figure is the best for any telecast this summer and the largest for a summer series since a “Primetime Live” edition in August 2001 (23.7 million for a Gary Condit interview). No summer reality skein has drawn a larger aud since “Survivor” five years ago.

“Dancing” grew sharply on the half-hour, peaking at 9:30 with a 21 share in 18-49, a 28 share in women 25-54 and 24.1 million viewers overall.

Series is expected back on the Alphabet next year, although the net is still hammering out the specifics of a pickup deal with BBC Worldwide.

Elsewhere on the night, the WB’s own unscripted hit “Beauty and the Geek” ended its run with solid numbers (2.0/7 in 18-49, 4.31 million viewers overall), up slightly week-to-week.

“Beauty,” which surged in its second half-hour, won from 8 to 9 in adults 18-34 (2.1/8) and persons 12-34 (2.0/8) and was second to a repeat of “Dancing With the Stars” in 18-49.

Look for the next edition of “Beauty and Geek” in fall or winter, with the Frog recently greenlighting an expanded, eight-episode edition for midseason (Daily Variety, June 21).

This Wednesday, the WB will air a “Beauty and the Geek” reunion special in the 8 o’clock hour.

And in nationals for Tuesday’s cable action, MTV’s “The ’70s House” got off to a nice start at 10:30 (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.86m), winning its time period in persons 12-34 (2.5/8). It got a strong lead-in from “Real World” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 3.47m).

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