‘Actress’ bites off big fat auds

Showtime likely to reup Alley commedy

Showtime is breathing a big, fat sigh of relief.

After enlisting every last employee to push the Kirstie Alley comedy out of the gate, “Fat Actress” scored a 4.16 household rating and 924,000 viewers March 7 — that’s four times the network’s primetime average.

It’s also significantly more than the number of people watching new episodes of “The L Word” and double the number of folks who tried out mega-marketed drama “Huff.”

Showtime is still making a big Emmy play for the latter — execs already sent out DVDs of the entire first season to Acad voters. But if numbers hold up, “Fat Actress” may end up its first real building block as it rebuilds its rep for original programming.

Opening tally may seem small, but in Showtime’s tiny universe of 13 million, one million is just fine. Laffer, which lasts just seven episodes, was likely seen by many more whom were able to sample the half-hour via a free preview weekend.

So execs can take comfort — at least momentarily. “Second week numbers are always the more telling ones,” one cable exec points out.

But Showtime entertainment prexy Robert Greenblatt renewed “Huff” before it began and “The L Word” after just two episodes had bowed. In all likelihood, he will be serving up another helping of “Fat Actress” as well, even if it features a slimmed down star.

Alley, the new spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, has already shed more than 20 pounds since production wrapped on the first season.

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