AMC opens strong with ‘The Killing’

Cable series draws in 2.7 million viewers

Medieval knights, renaissance kings and an American political dynasty all shared the cable spotlight over the weekend.

Yet, among series premieres, contemporary murder proved best. AMC’s “The Killing” drew 2.7 million in Sunday’s two-hour debut. When a pair of repeat telecasts were added, 4.7 million viewers were tallied.

The well-reviewed murder mystery series, about the slaying of a teenage girl in Seattle and how her death affects her family and a local politician, is the second highest opener in AMC history, following the 5.3 million who tuned in to the first episode of “The Walking Dead.”

“It’s a big relief,” said David Madden, topper at Fox Television Studios, which produces “The Killing.” “We went through a similar thing with ‘Lights Out.’ Great press, but nobody found out about it.”

Network had the difficult task of touting the series without having the marketing benefit of fresh episodes of an original show currently running. “The Walking Dead” ended in early December.

“AMC did a fantastic job,” Madden said. “They would readily admit it was a challenge without a drama on the air right now. They worked extraordinarily hard to get the message out.”

“The Kennedys,” which was dropped by History in January and picked up by ReelzChannel, drew 1.9 million viewers — easily setting a new mark for the 5-year-old network that was barely on viewers’ radar before the miniseries landed there.

Starring Greg Kinnear as the president, Kate Holmes, Tom Wilkinson and Barry Pepper, the series will run the rest of the week and conclude Friday.

Reelz CEO Stan Hubbard said: “Viewers across America showed their ongoing fascination with the Kennedy family. In acquiring ‘The Kennedys,’ our aim was to give viewers an opportunity to watch an incredible movie event with massive star power and to also put a spotlight on our network like never before.”

On the pay cable side, Starz launched “Camelot” Friday to 1.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated series premiere in network history. Previous record-setter was “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” which attracted just over 1 million viewers when it debuted in January.

Showtime’s “The Borgias,” starring Jeremy Irons and created by Neil Jordan, opened Sunday to 1 million viewers in its initial 9 p.m. timeslot, with an additional 432,000 tuning in at 11 o’clock. That made it the most-watched drama premiere on the net in seven years.