Showtime's 'Dexter' on fire

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A pair of cable series -- Showtime's "Dexter" and VH1's "I Love New York 2" -- ended their seasons in a big way this week.

Elsewhere in TV ratings news, NBC's "Clash of the Choirs" struck a sour note and ABC's "Duel" was outdueled in their respective premieres Monday.

"Dexter," which continues to be Showtime's most-watched original series, drew 1.4 million total viewers to its second-season finale at 9 p.m. Sunday, making it the drama's most-watched episode ever, according to Nielsen Media Research. The tally represents a 14% improvement over the first-season finale, which averaged 1.2 million in December 2006.

A repeat airing at 10 p.m. averaged 382,000 viewers. That's up from the same-night Season 1 repeat (148,000), though that episode aired at midnight.

When factoring in DVR-playback data, "Dexter" is averaging 2.4 million viewers on a weekly basis through 11 full weeks, outperforming Season 1 (2 million) by 21%.

Although Showtime has not made any announcement, "Dexter" is expected to be picked up for a third season. Earlier this month, CBS announced plans to repurpose "Dexter" and other Showtime series during the writers strike (HR 12/5).

Meanwhile, VH1's looking-for-love unscripted competition series "I Love New York 2" wooed 5.4 million viewers to its Monday night finale, up 23% from its first-season finale in April. In the adults 18-49 demo, the episode drew 3.6 million viewers, up 26% from last season's finale. "New York" was the most-watched nonsports program in cable Monday in total viewers and 18-49.

"New York 2" also marks the third-highest-rated season of any VH1 series ever and ranks among the top 10 basic cable series year-to-date. An "I Love New York 2" reunion special airs at 9 p.m. Jan. 6.

Meanwhile, "Choirs" and "Duel" -- which are both airing as primetime strips ("Choirs" over four nights and "Duel" over six) -- got off to so-so starts at 8 p.m. Monday.

"Choirs" (8 million viewers, 2.4 rating/6 share in 18-49), which had a two-hour debut, came in second during the time period -- behind CBS' proven comedy lineup -- in viewership and adults 18-49 but won in adults 18-34.

"Duel" averaged 6.7 million and a 2.1/6 from 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m. It was pre-empted in Chicago and Minneapolis because of the "Monday Night Football" game.

ESPN's "MNF" matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings was the top telecast in all of TV, beating the broadcast networks in primetime with an average 11.3 million homes. It also was tops in the male demos as well as adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

Kimberly Nordyke reported from Los Angeles; Paul J. Gough reported from New York.
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