Fourth-season premiere breaks new ground

The fourth-season premiere of “Weeds” Monday at 10 smoked out a larger audience than any other original-series episode on Showtime in the last four years.

The Monday “Weeds” half-hour harvested 1.35 million total viewers, which gave a strong leg up to the 10:30 half-hour “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” Its 949,000 viewers made “Diary” the highest-rated opening-night debut of a new series in Showtime’s 30-year history.

Another notable Monday new-season premiere in cable TV, A&E’s “Intervention,” scored better debut numbers than any of its previous four primetime seasons — 2.1 million total viewers from 9 to 10. These powerhouse numbers helped the series premiere of the lead-out show, “Psychic Kids,” chalk up a solid 1.7 million viewers.

For Showtime, the success of “Weeds” and “Diary” is testament to the network’s full-throttle push into firstrun scripted programming; it’s commissioning more original series than ever before in its history. Showtime’s historical drama “The Tudors” has just begun production in Ireland on its third season. The dark half-hour comedy “Californication,” with David Duchovny, is in production on its second season, for a fall airing. “The L Word” is wrapping up production on its sixth and final season.

The network’s highest-rated 60-minute series, “Dexter,” has started production on its third season, which kicks off in the fall. And Steven Spielberg is co-exec producer of “The United States of Tara,” a new half-hour comedy written by Diablo Cody and starring Toni Collette and John Corbett. Showtime has committed to 12 episodes of “Tara,” to begin early next year.

“Weeds” has 12 more episodes in its current season. “Diary” has seven more in its rookie season, but Showtime had already given the go to 16 more episodes of the London-based series it co-produces with IMG and Tiger Aspect.

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