'Who' spinoff earns big debut numbers

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LONDON -- There seems no end to viewers' appetite for all things "Doctor Who" here, as the alien-hunting spinoff "Torchwood" grabbed a formidable 2.4 million viewers for its debut outing on digital network BBC3, a level draw with flagship channel BBC1's Sunday-night drama "Wide Sargasso Sea."

The spinoff, which was rated No. 3 across all channels on Sunday night at 9, was beaten only by "Prime Suspect" on ITV1 and Channel 4's movie offering "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

The performance is regarded by observers as one of the biggest multichannel audiences ever garnered by a homegrown show.

The drama, which follows the adventures of a group of alien hunters in Cardiff, Wales, is based at the Torchwood research institute that featured in several episodes of the reprised "Doctor Who" that aired on BBC1 earlier this year.

BBC aired two episodes of the new show back to back, with the second show maintaining an audience of 2.3 million viewers at 9:50 p.m.

Multichannel shows airing in the 9 p.m. slot included Sky One business show "The Big Idea," which won 164,000 viewers, and a "CSI: NY" repeat on Five U.S., which won 160,000 viewers.
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