Legal ensembler bows to over 7.7 mil viewers

TNT raised the bar Monday for original basic cable series.

“Raising the Bar,” the Turner cabler’s legal ensembler from Steven Bochco, bowed to more than 7.7 million viewers, besting the mark of 7.4 million set in 2004 by USA’s premiere of “The 4400.”

“Raising the Bar” — which ran commercial-free at 10 p.m. Monday — also touted just over 5.7 million households, bettering the preem record of 5.3 million households established in by “The Closer” in 2005, according to Nielsen. A fresh 9 p.m. seg of “The Closer,” which has averaged 7.2 million viewers this season as ad-supported cable’s top skein in total viewers, provided a strong lead-in for the “Bar” preem (though ratings for Monday’s edition of “The Closer” were not immediately available).

“We are shocked — we were just hoping to be in the 5 million (viewer) range,” said Turner Entertainment Networks prexy Steve Koonin, noting that the ratings figures for the “Bar” opener don’t take into account the DVR viewing that will be tabulated in the three days after the initial broadcast. “The Closer,” on average, harvests as much as 30% of its aud once “plus-three” viewing via DVRs is factored in, Koonin said.

Series, which hails from Bochco and ABC Studios and revolves around a group of law school chums who find themselves battling one another from different sides of the judicial system, had the good fortune to debut on a night without GOP Convention coverage due to Hurricane Gustav.

The legal drama premiered on a night when Fox’s “Prison Break” and CW’s “Gossip Girl” had season bows.

Before “Raising the Bar’s” auspicious debut, the previous ratings high for a new cable series was established over the summer by USA’s “In Plain Sight,” which touted 5.3 million viewers and 3.9 million households.

“Raising the Bar” also established best-of-year totals for adults 18-49 (2.8 million) and adults 25-54 (3.5 million).

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