‘Bionic Woman’ flexes muscle

'Private Practice' also pulls in solid numbers

Fall season, we have liftoff.

After a handful of high-profile newcomers failed to excite auds much, NBC’s new take on “Bionic Woman” busted out Wednesday, opening with the net’s best premiere numbers on the night in eight years.

In the heavyweight Wednesday showdown between a pair of shows with pre-sold hooks, NBC’s “Bionic Woman” bowed bigger than ABC’s “Private Practice” in key young-adult demos, though the latter was no slouch: The pair stand as the two highest-rated premieres of the season.

They could easily co-exist in the same hour, with “Bionic Woman” playing a bit older and more male than the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff.

NBC’s new cop drama “Life” was a surprising demo winner to cap the night, besting ABC’s frosh hour “Dirty Sexy Money” and CBS vet crime drama “CSI: NY.”

And among shows in their second weeks, both Fox’s “Back to You” and CBS’ “Kid Nation” limited their losses to a modest 10%, while Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and CW’s “Gossip Girl” saw bigger declines — but that’s understandable opposite a crush of premieres on other nets in the 9 o’clock hour.

ABC edged out NBC for the night’s 18-49 demo lead (4.3 rating/12 share to 4.1/11), with the Alphabet holding the advantage among auds on the female and younger ends of the 18-49 category, while the Peacock was stronger in the upper half of the demo and with men. NBC was the most improved, rising by 37% in 18-49 and 50% in total viewers vs. premiere Wednesday of a year ago for the net’s best start on the night in three years.

ABC drew the largest overall audience thanks to a special “Dancing With the Stars” that kicked off the night.

According to “live plus same-day” DVR-viewing estimates by Nielsen for Wednesday night, “Bionic Woman” averaged a hearty 5.7 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 13.91 million viewers overall — NBC’s highest-rated Wednesday series premiere in 18-49 since “The West Wing” in 1999. Opener was also the net’s highest-rated regularly scheduled program in Wednesday’s 9 o’clock hour since an October 2003 seg of “Wing.”

Most impressive about “Bionic Woman” was that it had to build so significantly upon its lead-in from “Deal or No Deal” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 9.05m) and then grew some more in its second half-hour (5.5 vs. 5.9). It also was pretty balanced along gender lines, commanding 16% of the men 18-49 audience and 13% of women of the same age, and it won the hour in adults 25-54 (6.6/15).

At ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” was a strong No. 2 in the 9 o’clock hour among adults 18-49 (5.2/13) and No. 1 in total viewers (14.41 million), but it came in well below the 7.7/19 in 18-49 that “Lost” scored with its third-season bow in the time period a year ago. It skewed young and female, winning the hour in adults 18-34 (5.0/14 to 4.2/12 for “Bionic”) and key women demos.

“Private Practice,” which didn’t see any growth in its second half-hour, had a stronger lead-in than “Bionic Woman” courtesy of the first “Dancing With the Stars” results show at 8 o’clock on a special night (4.1/12 in 18-49, 16.81m).

Also in the opening hour, despite added “Dancing” competition, Fox comedy “Back to You” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 7.47m) and CBS reality show “Kid Nation” (2.8/8, 7.62m) retained 90% of their solid premiere-week 18-49 audience. “Back” ran second in 18-49 at 8, and “Kid” moved to second place for its entire hour, moving ahead of Fox’s “‘Til Death” (2.4/7, 6.20m) at 8:30.

CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” remained potent at 8 o’clock (2.4/7 in 18-49, 4.90m), winning the hour among adults 18-34 (3.0/10), rising week to week in the younger demo. Lead-out “Gossip Girl” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.48m) predictably fell off opposite the big drama premieres in its timeslot but held up reasonably well among its core young-female aud — retaining 81% of its premiere week females 12-34 aud (2.9 vs. 3.6).

Also at 9, Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 5.42m) dropped by about 20% from its premiere, while CBS drama “Criminal Minds” (3.5/9, 12.66m) was down year-to-year but held up OK given the tough drama newcomers.

At 10 o’clock, NBC’s new “Life” (4.0/11 in 18-49, 9.95m) won in 18-49 over CBS vet “CSI: NY” (3.7/10, 12.72m) and ABC newcomer “Dirty Sexy Money” (3.6/10, 10.44m).

“Life,” which declined 16% in its second half-hour (3.7 from 4.4), gave NBC its highest rating in the time period in 15 months. And “Dirty,” which dipped just 5% in 18-49 on the half-hour (3.5 vs. 3.7), tied with “Life” for the hour’s lead among adults 18-34 (3.0/9).

“CSI: NY” carried the hour in overall audience but was down about 3 million viewers from last year’s premiere. It moved to the demo lead in both 18-49 and 25-54 at 10:30 and figures to reclaim the hour overall next week.

Next Wednesday will see the addition to the night of ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” perhaps the fall’s most critically cheered new program.

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