Viewers turn out for ‘Sex’

Aud size matters as skein sizzles for HBO

NEW YORK — HBO’s “Sex and the City” achieved a Nielsen orgasm for Sunday’s premiere of its sixth and final season, drawing 7.3 million total viewers to make it the fourth highest-rated episode in the show’s history.

The Sunday premiere ended up slightly below the fifth-season premiere, which delivered 7.9 million viewers last summer. But it finished well above the average of last season’s eight original episodes, which delivered slightly more than 7 million viewers.

Just as important for HBO, the huge rating of Sunday’s “Sex” proved a boon to the show it led into, an original episode of “The Wire,” which wound up with 4.3 million viewers, the biggest aud total in the show’s history.

Aiming for high ‘Wire’

HBO hopes some of these viewers hang around for subsequent weeks of “The Wire,” which has become a darling of critics but is still struggling to come anywhere near viewer levels of HBO’s hit hours “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under.”

Even the hourlong second-season preem of HBO’s documentary series “Project Greenlight” got a lift from the “Sex and the City” bow.

Airing after “The Wire,” “Greenlight” pulled in 3.5 million viewers, better than 1 million more than the average of the first season of “Greenlight,” which kicked off in December 2001.

HBO plans to run 11 more original half-hours of “Sex and the City” every Sunday through early September, and then come back with a final eight half-hours in January.