21.8 mil viewers in step with ABC's 'Dancing'

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ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" returned to the airwaves Monday with the spring still in its step.

The premiere of its fourth cycle averaged 21.8 million and a 6.4 rating/16 share in the 18-49 demographic from 8-10 p.m., leading ABC to wins in viewers and the demo, according to Nielsen Media Research. The premiere exceeded the show's third-cycle debut, which in September grabbed more than 20 million and a 5.7/15 in 18-49.

The episode was not only "Dancing's" highest-rated cycle opener, but it also collected the biggest audience with entertainment programming that ABC has delivered in 15 years on a Monday, which has been a mixed bag for the network since losing "Monday Night Football."

"Dancing" took the air out of the competition at 9 p.m., in particular, driving CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and "Rules of Engagement" to season lows. NBC's "Deal or No Deal" also was running below par, but Fox's "24" held up OK (4.6/11).

"Dancing" helped lift ABC's 10 p.m. drama "What About Brian" to a robust 2.5/7.

For the night, ABC averaged 16.9 million viewers and a 5.2/13 in 18-49, followed by CBS (11.7 million, 4.0/10), NBC (11.3 million, 3.6/9), Fox (10.1 million, 4.1/10) and the CW (2.3 million, 1.0/3).
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