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‘Huff’ cuffed in tough bow

Showtime skein fighting for breath

Things look rough for “Huff.”

Despite a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, the Showtime drama premiered Sunday to weak numbers. Just 456,000 viewers tuned in to the 10 p.m. episode — down from its lead-in, the feature film “School of Rock” (637,000).

Numbers for Sony Pictures TV-produced “Huff” also fell far short of previous Showtime original preems, including those of “The Reagans” (1.2 million), the third season of “Queer as Folk” (1.1 million), “The L Word” (936,000) and the second season of “Dead Like Me” (797,000).

Skein did manage to double the network’s overall primetime rating, averaging a 0.3 national rating/1 share in key demos.

“Huff” marks the first series greenlit by entertainment topper Robert Greenblatt. Exec even placed an early order for a season two in July, noting that the first five scripts were outstanding.

Showtime brass say they expect ratings for the one-hour to build in the coming weeks.

Execs point out that the series — starring Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist whose world is turned upside down after a patient commits suicide in front of him — is more ambiguous than the net’s previous niche-oriented efforts (“L Word,” “Queer as Folk,” “Soul Food” and “Jeremiah”).

Execs are also banking on subscribers to watch “Huff” via Showtime’s on-demand service.

HBO half-hours “Family Bonds” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.2 million viewers) and an “Entourage” repeat (0.6/2 in 18-49, 960,000 viewers) more than doubled Showtime’s take in the 10 p.m. time period.History Channel doc “Alexander the Great” was Sunday night’s highest-rated and most-watched entertainment show on ad-supported cable. Program averaged 3.1 million viewers, making it the net’s top-rated original year-to-date. VH1 scored an impressive 1.1 million viewers for a new episode of “Surreal Life.”

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