Showtime's 'Nurse Jackie,' 'Tara' open new season with solid numbers

Its most buzzed-about cast to date helped ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” return in dominant fashion as the hoofer competish kicked off its 10th edition Monday.

Show, featuring contenders that included Pamela Anderson, Kate Gosselin and recent “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka, drew its largest-ever premiere audience, with more than 24 million viewers, which marked the net’s best delivery on the night in nearly 10 years.

And perhaps just as important for the Alphabet, 10 p.m. sophomore drama “Castle” — which has quietly been picking up ratings steam — took advantage of its bigger lead-in to beat longtime slot leader “CSI: Miami” for the first time.

Fourth-place ABC certainly could use some help from “Dancing” as it battles over the final 10 weeks of the season to catch NBC, which is aiming to finish as high as third for a season for the first time in six years.

Meanwhile, Showtime logged solid but not spectacular numbers for the sophomore season preems of “Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara” from 10-11 p.m. “Nurse Jackie” averaged 1.08 million viewers (up nearly 10% from last season’s debut and finale) and 1.52 million for its two airings on the night. On par with last year’s bow was the second-season opener for “United States of Tara” (816,000), which drew 1.17 million for its two airings.

For ABC, Nielsen estimates that “Dancing With the Stars” averaged a 6.4 rating/17 share in adults 18-49 and 24.19 million viewers overall from 8 to 10:02 p.m. — rising 5% in the demo from last spring’s opener and a big 56% from last fall. It matched the show’s best young-adult showing for a premiere to date.

Show had sputtered in the fall with an uninspired cast of stars, and this year’s group, which also includes NFL player Chad Ochocinco, U.S. figure skating standout Evan Lysaceck and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, was considered a splashy upgrade.

The 6.4 rating in 18-49 is the highest same-night demo score for any regular series telecast on any net (excluding Fox’s “American Idol”) since the season premieres of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and Fox’s “House” last fall (both 6.7). And in total viewers, only a handful of “American Idol” segs have done better this season.

Show peaked at 9:30 p.m., when Gosselin and Anderson took the stage, with a 7.1 rating in adults 18-49, a 12.0 rating in women 25-54 and more than 25.6 million viewers overall. That helped send CBS laffer “The Big Bang Theory” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 13.42m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.1/13, 14.46m) to rare second-place finishes, though they were easily the evening’s top scripted skeins.

At 10:02 p.m., “Castle” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 12.21m) achieved series highs with the first of a two-part episode that will conclude next Monday, edging out “CSI: Miami” (3.2/9, 10.79m).

Compared to “Castle’s” series preem last March (following the “Dancing” spring premiere), show grew 10% in 18-49, while “CSI: Miami” dropped 26% (3.2 vs. 4.3). NBC slid 28% (with a 1.8 for “Law & Order” vs. a 2.5 for last year’s “Medium”).

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