New HBO laffer may be ‘Lucky’ after all

'Entourage' shaping up to be a broad-based hit

Don’t count “Lucky Louie” out just yet.

With a weak Sunday premiere audience of 1.5 million viewers, the HBO sitcom was pronounced DOA by TV experts last week. But after a week’s worth of plays, seven in total, that number shot up to 3.8 million overall viewers.

That’s a big leap and a strong showing for the skein, an R-rated, multi-camera sitcom starring Louis CK as a blue-collar family man. By way of comparison, the season opener for established drama “Deadwood” cumed a similar 3.9 million over its first week (down from last season’s first-week cume, which included a larger number of plays).

Meanwhile, “Entourage” is shaping up to be a broad-based hit, drawing a total aud of 5 million viewers in week one.

HBO exec VP of program planning David Baldwin said that most subscribers tend to find shows like “Louie” — that is, “shows without destination appeal” — during the course of a week. Another likely factor in the weeklong ratings boost is that the sitcom’s Sunday premiere was up against the NBA finals.

Though the series garnered mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, Baldwin said he had no ratings expectations for the show either way.

“Quite honestly, we knew it was different. We knew were taking some chances and risks,” he said. “But part of the HBO brand is to do things for different segments of our audience. We’re not always going to be the network for dramatic hours.

” ‘Lucky Louie’ is a show that appeals to the people who perhaps aren’t hooked up to our other series,” Baldwin added.

Series’ second episode drew 1.3 million viewers on Sunday (down just slightly from last week’s 1.5 million). Elsewhere, new episodes of “Deadwood” and “Entourage” dipped to 1.9 million and 2.1 million on Sunday, respectively.

HBO offered the first episode of “Louie” as a free download on TV.com for a full week prior to its premiere.

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