ABC Family comedy opens well

'Melissa and Joey' draws record adult rating for premiere

ABC Family, which continues to perform well in the hourlong format, is off to a good start with its latest half-hour comedy, “Melissa and Joey.”

Fronted by Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence, both of whom starred on hit sitcoms as teenyboppers in the 1990s, the laffer opened Tuesday before the largest adults 18-49 audience to date for a series premiere on the network (1.26 million), according to Nielsen. It’s also No. 2 among network premieres in women 18-49 (with its 902,000 coming in just behind the “Huge” bow from June) and is the net’s most-watched comedy debut in total viewers (2.15 million) as well as other key demos.

“Melissa and Joey” helped ABC Family stand as the No. 1 cable program in the 8 p.m. time-slot among adults 18-49 and persons 12-34.

A second episode followed at 8:30, dropping off slightly in 18-49 but building among persons 12-34.

Hart played the lead on ABC’s “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and Lawrence starred in NBC’s “Blossom.” The two teamed last year for ABC Family telepic “My Fake Fiance.”

ABC Family has dabbled in the half-hour comedy format before (as recently as last summer with “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Ruby and the Rockits”) but hasn’t found anything as popular as its original hours. “Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Huge” have all delivered good ratings for the network this summer.

In fact, the net’s success over the last year helped Paul Lee, its entertainment prexy at the time, land the top programming gig at ABC last month when Steve McPherson departed.

Also of note in cable ratings Tuesday, USA’s hot rookie drama “Covert Affairs” hit series across the board, averaging a 1.8/5 in adults 18-49 and 5.36 million viewers overall. It got some help from sophomore lead-in “White Collar” (1.5/4, 4.48m), which drew its largest overall audience of the summer.

MTV’s “Teen Mom” edged out “Covert Affairs” as cable’s top show of the night in 18-49 (1.9/6), and led all of television in females 12-34 (4.5/16).

Top broadcast programs in demos were ABC’s “Wipeout” (3.1/10 in 18-49, 8.98m) and NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” (2.9/8, 10.19m). Former benefited from the absence of time period competish from Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” which cooked up its summer finale last week.

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