'American Dog' performs well for CBS

USA strengthened its standing as cable’s top-rated network with Thursday’s second-season debut of “Burn Notice,” which topped its firstrun ABC and CBS competition in key demos.

“Burn Notice” sizzled as easily cable’s top-rated program on a night when CBS saw a credible debut for canine competition “Greatest American Dog.” One night later, the Eye delivered more solid but unspectacular numbers for the debut of drama “Flashpoint.”

According to Nielsen nationals, “Burn Notice” averaged a hot 1.8 rating/6 share among adults 18-49 and 5.39 million viewers overall, a 20% gain in the demo and a 35% improvement in overall audience vs. its series debut of last summer.

“Burn” helped USA rank No. 2 in its 10 o’clock hour in key demos, besting CBS drama “Swingtown” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.28m) and ABC hospital news series “Hopkins” (1.5/5, 5.49m) and lagging only NBC’s concluding hour of “Last Comic Standing” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 5.08m from 9 to 11 p.m.).

The 25-54 score for “Burn” (2.2/6) is the second best for a scripted cable series telecast in 2008, behind only the winter finale of USA’s “Monk” in February (2.5/6). (TNT’s “The Closer” figures to top them both, though, when it returns tonight.)

In addition to veteran hits “Monk” and “Psych,” USA’s hit series also include newbie “In Plain Sight,” which continues to rack up good numbers on Sunday night.

Over at CBS, “Greatest American Dog” (2.1/8 in 18-49, 9.53 million viewers overall) tied for the 8 p.m. timeslot’s lead among adults 18-49 with Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.1/7, 7.20m) and won outright in adults 25-54 (2.8/9) and total viewers. There wasn’t much else happening in the hour, with ABC and NBC offering up low-rated repeats.

Though not a debut to bark about — it was on par with last year’s early-summer bow of “Pirate Master” — it’s a decent debut for a network seeking its first new reality hit in seven years. Show will continue to kick off Thursday nights, as the net’s summer stalwart “Big Brother” has shifted its elimination night to Wednesday.

On Friday, “Flashpoint,” a Canadian co-production about an elite cop squad, averaged a preliminary 1.9/6 in 18-49 and 8.1 million viewers overall, winning its timeslot over ABC’s “20/20″ (prelim 1.5/6, 5.2 million) and the second half of NBC’s “Dateline” (prelim 1.5/5 in 18-49, 6.1 million from 10 to 11 p.m.).

It performed better than all repeats of “Numbers” to air in the 10 o’clock hour for CBS this summer.

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