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‘Monday Mornings’ stumbles for TNT

Kelley drama draws just 1.34 million for premiere

Sometimes the patient just can’t be revived.

TNT has suffered a big miss with “Monday Mornings,” the David E. Kelley medical drama that bowed Monday to anemic ratings. And that belly flop followed last week’s DOA premiere of drama “Do No Harm” on NBC.

The spectacularly bad numbers posted by two network shows in quick succession offer a sobering reminder that even in an era of declining expectations for new series, the danger of fumbling from the get-go — call it the “Lone Star” syndrome — is ever-present.

“Monday Mornings” opened to just 1.34 million viewers, according to Nielsen, including 472,000 adults 25-54 — one of the smaller audiences in memory for such a high-profile scripted cable drama. “Do No Harm” debuted last Thursday in the 10 p.m. hour to a tiny 0.9 rating in adults 18-49 and 3.1 million viewers overall — the first time a broadcast series had opened to a sub-1 demo rating.

The minuscule turnouts for “Monday Mornings” and “Do No Harm” indicate that target auds for those shows had little awareness of them, and worse, no interest in their concepts. With so much media attention and social media chatter focused on TV these days, it’s likely that the first many prospective viewers heard of either show came from the discussion of their weak openings.

Industry insiders speculated that both shows were handicapped by generic-sounding titles and lack of promotable star power, although Kelley’s renown as a series creator was heavily touted in TNT’s marketing effort.

Also, TNT was probably counting on being able to give “Monday Mornings” a stronger lead-in, but the second season of “Dallas” isn’t performing all that well, either. Monday’s second episode of the season drew 2.32 million viewers, of which 917,000 were adults 25-54.

Even with these lower numbers, “Dallas” is more than doubling what TNT was doing on Mondays at this time a year ago.

“Dallas” opened to a huge 6.86 million viewers last June and settled into a sizable average audience for the duration of the season, and picking back up again with 4.29 million for its finale in August. But this season’s opener drew 2.98 million, and Monday’s second seg lost more than 600,000 viewers.

The second season could be hurt by the recent death of Larry Hagman, who portrayed the iconic J.R. Ewing on the show, including some episodes still to air this season. “Dallas” also has the tougher task in its second season of airing in January up against top-drawer competition on the broadcast networks instead of the reality and repeats they serve up in the summer.

In recent years, TNT was able to use “The Closer” to funnel viewers into new shows, but the crime drama wrapped last year. In 2012, TNT introduced both “Perception” (5.60 million) and “Major Crimes” (7.18 million) behind “The Closer.”

The industry surprise at the woefully low turnout for “Monday Mornings” is a sign that TNT has joined TV’s big leagues. Plenty of mid-tier cable networks would be happy to draw more than 1 million viewers in primetime.

Moreover, opposite the “Monday Mornings” bow, NBC’s other midseason drama, “Deception,” settled for a 1.1 rating in adults 18-49 in its fifth airing.

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