NBC cop drama nabs 9.7 million viewers

NBC’s cop drama “Southland” led the pack of Thursday preems, posting respectable numbers as it moved into “ER’s” old 10 p.m. slot.

Peacock’s other preem for the night, comedy “Parks and Recreation” did just OK in its 8:30 p.m. bow despite a flood of promotion for the Amy Poehler starrer. Meanwhile, CBS’ spooky new murder-mystery drama “Harper’s Island” didn’t scare up much of a crowd at 10 p.m. following “CSI.”

“Southland” opened to 3.2 rating/9 share in the adults 18-49 demo and 9.9 million overall viewers, according to final Nielsens. That marked a nice tune-in bounce in viewers from its 9:30 p.m. “30 Rock” (3.1/8, 6.8 m) lead-in.

The Peacock’s rookie drama about L.A. beat cops had no trouble topping the Eye’s debut of “Harper’s Island” (2.7/8, 10.6 m) in the demo, despite “Harper’s” lead-in advantage from “CSI” (3.7/10, 16.1 m).

“Southland” also won both the 18-34 and 25-54 adult demo, making it a satisfying start for the drama exec produced by John Wells, who saw “ER” end its 15-year run last Thursday with strong numbers as well.

According to the Peacock, “Southland” is the first NBC drama since a January 2005 broadcast of “Medium” to build on its 18-49 demo from 10 to 10:30 p.m.

The launch of the “Southland” Thursday night made for a happy Friday morning in Burbank.

“The fact is, I think, the ability for us to execute high-end, quality programming consistent with what NBC is and what we stand for,” said NBC co-chair Ben Silverman: “With the midseason approach we used on these shows, we’re pleased they paid off.”

If “Southland” continues to perform well for the network, Silverman and his team may have to find a place for it on the fall schedule. Yet, with Jay Leno arriving to fill all the 10 p.m. weekday timeslots, the edgy cop drama will have to find a new home.

“Parks and Recreation” (3.0/9, 6.9 m) was paired with a special 8 p.m. edition of “The Office” (3.4/6, 7.3 m), but it wasn’t able to capitalize on its lead-in.

ABC laid low for the night with repeats of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” from 9-11 p.m. and weak showings from its 8-9 p.m. comedies “In the Motherhood” (1.3/4, 4.6 m) and “Samantha Who?” (1.4/4, 4.9 m).

CBS and NBC tied for No. 1 for the night in 18-49 (3.3/10), while CBS led in viewers by a wide margin (12.7 m).

This article was updated on April 11, 2009.

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