'Army' legions snap to attention

Lifetime series draws 4.5 million viewers

Lifetime's "Army Wives" drew 4.5 million total viewers to its second-season premiere Sunday night, making it the network's most-watched original drama series telecast.

USA's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" also drew 4.5 million total viewers upon its return with original episodes at 9 p.m. Sunday, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the Season 2 premiere of History's "Ice Road Truckers" averaged 3.9 million total viewers at 9 p.m. Sunday, marking the best season bow for History series.

The 10 p.m. episode of "Wives" broke the Lifetime record held by a February 2002 episode of "The Division" (4 million).

"Wives" also became the network's highest-rated original drama series telecast among the key female demos of 18-34 (805,420 viewers/2.9 rating), 18-49 (2 million/3.5) and 25-54 (2 million/3.7). It also ranks as the year's highest-rated drama telecast on ad-supported cable among women 18-49 and25-54.

The Season 2 premiere posted double-digit increases over June 2007's series premiere among total viewers (29%) and the key female demos of 18-34 (61%) and 25-54 (59%).

Lifetime president of entertainment Susanne Daniels called the numbers "amazing" considering that the show came back "stronger than it left off."

But she pointed out that Lifetime had helped build buzz with its marketing and PR campaigns and its pre-premiere scheduling strategy, airing a "Wives" first-season marathon Saturday as well as weekly repeats leading up to Sunday's debut.

However, it still comes down to the content, she said.

"What matters on television is just a good show that people want to watch," Daniels said. "I'm a believer that if you build the right show, the viewers will come. I really think that 'Army Wives' offers a unique perspective, and that helps drive the audience."

"CI," meanwhile, marked a 21% increase in total viewers from the series' October premiere on USA (after having moved from corporate sibling NBC). The episode also averaged 2.1 million adults 25-54 (up 10% from October) and 1.8 million adults 18-49 (up 4%). The show grew in the second half-hour by 8% in both demos.

At History, the "Truckers" debut was up 15% compared with its series premiere (3.4 million). The episode also pulled in 2.3 million adults 25-54 (up 15% over the Season 1 debut) and 2.3 million adults 18-49 (up 28%).

History's "Ax Men" ended its first season at 10 p.m. Sunday, averaging 2.4 million total viewers (a 26% increase over the season average). That included 1.5 million viewers in the 25-54 demo and 1.6 million in 18-49.