'90210' return adds some zip to the CW

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The premiere of "90210" — arguably the most crucial series of the fall season — became the highest-rated scripted debut in the CW's two-year history.

The remake's two-hour bow Tuesday was seen by 4.7 million viewers and garnered a preliminary 2.6 rating/7 share among adults 18-49. That surpasses the CW's previous scripted record in the adult demo by 18%, set by the premiere of the cult favorite "Smallville" (2.2).

The "90210" number also ties the network's unscripted premiere record once reached by "America's Next Top Model." The CW enjoyed a rare full-night victory, besting broadcast competitors to win the evening in the adult demo. Among the network's women 18-34 target, "90210" was the CW's highest-rated scripted telecast ever (4.3/12).

"I was really thrilled, I was relieved, I was excited," CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said when asked her reaction to the numbers. "I knew this would appeal to a broader audience than our other shows. We are really happy with the Nielsen numbers; I really think this show is going to soak into the zeitgeist."

TV critics were braced for disaster after the CW refused to send out screener copies of the show, but most were pleased with the result.

With some in the industry speculating that CW's parents CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. might pull the plug on the network should its performance not improve, the "90210" returns have outsized importance. Of all the CW's new shows, only the teen soap update was considered to have a real shot of significantly moving the needle.

Combined with the return of "Gossip Girl" showing ratings growth Monday, "90210" should give the CW some breathing room if the show can continue to carry a fair amount of its number into next week. With the "90210" numbers improving over the course of the show's two hours, Ostroff said she's hopeful that audiences remain engaged.

"Part of the news this morning that made me feel really good is seeing how every half-hour built," Ostroff said. "In the 11th hour, I wondered about whether this was the right decision to put the two hours back-to-back. It's a lot of drama. But people really liked these characters." (partialdiff)
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