But net struggles overall on Monday; CNN, MTV improve

David E. Kelley’s latest drama, “Harry’s Law,” opened to decent numbers for NBC on Monday, but the night overall continues to perplex the Peacock.

Meanwhile, MTV’s “Skins” had a record-setting bow on the night, and CNN talkshow “Piers Morgan Tonight” got off to a good start with Oprah Winfrey as his first interview subject.

For NBC, its Monday woes continued with its first night of originals in the new year. “Chuck” ran fourth despite matching a season high, and “The Cape,” which bowed on its regular night, doesn’t appear to be the superhero to save the day.

The night figures to be a priority for the NBC under Comcast as it starts to map out its plans for next fall. After all, the net is paying billions for the long-term rights to air “Sunday Night Football,” which is the season’s No. 1 program and provides the net with ample promotional opportunities. It also had the Golden Globes telecast on Sunday to tout its revamped Monday lineup.

Looking at the preliminary Nielsen numbers, NBC’s new drama team of “Chuck” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.9 million viewers overall), “The Cape” (1.8/4, 6.2 million) and “Harry’s Law” (2.1/6, 11.0 million) settled for a fourth-place 18-49 finish on the night. The net might have been hoping for more of a pop now that ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is over, freeing up some men, and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” is resting.

“Chuck” matched its season high in 18-49 but ran fourth, while “The Cape” tied for third in its hour among the major networks, and opened on its regular night down about 30% in 18-49 vs. its special Sunday preview Jan. 9 (2.6 rating). The new drama performed about on par with “Heroes” in the timeslot a year ago, and slightly better than the last two episodes of “The Event” to air in Monday’s 9 o’clock hour in November.

And at 10, the Kathy Bates-fronted “Harry’s Law” ran second among the broadcasters, beating out a repeat of ABC’s “Castle” (prelim 1.4/4 in 18-49, 5.7 million) while leading the hour in total viewers over CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0″ (prelim 2.9/8, 10.6 million), the hour’s demo winner. It was NBC’s top show of the night and edged up in some categories in its second half-hour, generally an encouraging sign for a 10 o’clock premiere.

“Harry’s Law” was down from the 18-49 premiere of “Chase” in the timeslot in September (2.3 rating), which had the advantage of following the high-rated “Event” premiere, but outperformed the last nine original episodes of “Chase” that aired in the 10 o’clock hour.

With “Harry’s Law” skewing older, it figures to be affected by the firstrun return of ABC’s competing “Castle” next week.

CBS won the night, led by “Two and a Half Men” (prelim 4.6/11, 15.6 million) and “How I Met Your Mother” (prelim 3.9/10, 10.5 million).

Elsewhere, CNN’s sitdown with Oprah Winfrey drew 2.1 million Monday, including 521,000 in the key news demo of adults 25-54 — more than triple the fourth-quarter averages of former slot occupant “Larry King Live” (657,000 viewers and 170,000 in the demo).

Morgan had pre-taped his conversation with Winfrey, who just launched the OWN network on Jan. 1, and had been touting the interview for weeks.

Despite the publicity surrounding Morgan’s debut, Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” was still best in the 9 p.m. timeslot among cable news programs. The conservative host had Sarah Palin as a guest on his hourlong show, which drew 2.3 million viewers and 600,000 in the demo. At MSNBC, “The Rachel Maddow Show” earned 1.1 million viewers, 342,000 in the demo.

Morgan will chat with Ricky Gervais on Thursday’s show. The interview will be taped today, so the British comedian can discuss his recent Golden Globes hosting gig.

At MTV, Monday’s launch of “Skins” drew 3.2 million viewers and 2.7 million in the 12-34 demo, the most in the demo for any series premiere in the net’s history.

The demo rating is better than the debuts of cable’s other teen-oriented shows, including “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” both on ABC Family.

Following last year’s preem of “The Hard Times of RJ Berger,” MTV continues its push into scripted programming. Next up is “Teen Wolf,” set to arrive in the summer.

Also Monday, Syfy’s series premiere of “Being Human” averaged 1.96 million. Cabler pointed out that the show about a vampire, werewolf and ghost delivered more of a female skew than typical fare on the channel; in fact, the 582,000 women 18-49 was the largest for any scripted series telecast on Syfy in 18 months (since “Warehouse 13″ in July 2009).

(Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, the weekly primetime ratings report and charts package will appear Thursday.)

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