'Closer' tops itself again: 9.2 million viewers

TNT drama's season finale sets ratings benchmark

Capping a strong summer for basic cable, TNT's "The Closer" broke another ratings record Monday when 9.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the cop drama's third-season finale -- the most ever for an ad-supported cable series.

In contrast, HBO's new series "Tell Me You Love Me" debuted to underwhelming ratings Sunday night, averaging 910,000 total viewers.

"Closer" broke its own record of 8.8 million viewers set by its third-season opener in June, which in turn broke the previous benchmark of 8.3 million set by its second-season premiere.

With its viewership of 9.2 million (and 6.8 million households), the Season 3 closer of the Kyra Sedgwick starrer ranked second in the 9-10 p.m. hour overall behind CBS.

"Tell Me," the racy drama that aired at 9 p.m., was off significantly compared with the series debut of HBO's now-canceled "John From Cincinnati," which averaged 3.4 million on June 10, according to Nielsen Media Research. However, it should be noted that "John" had the series finale of "The Sopranos" (11.9 million) as its lead-in, while "Tell Me" led out of a "Sopranos" repeat that drew only 519,000 viewers.

"Tell Me" also didn't help its lead-out, the sixth-season premiere of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which averaged 1.2 million viewers at 10 p.m. That marks the comedy series' poorest showing for a season opener. The Season 5 premiere, which aired Sept. 25, drew 1.6 million viewers. The show's most-watched premiere came in September 2002, with the third-season opener drawing 5.5 million viewers.

Other recent drama series debuts on HBO include "Big Love," 4.6 million in March 2006; "Rome," 4.6 million in August 2005; and "Deadwood" 5.8 million in March 2004.

At 10:30 p.m., the debut of "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq," featuring James Gandolfini interviewing 10 soldiers who survived near-fatal wounds while serving in Iraq, averaged 901,000 viewers.

Elsewhere, the "UFC 75" telecast that aired at 9 p.m. Saturday on Spike TV averaged 4.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched UFC event ever, according to Spike research. "UFC 75" peaked at 5.6 million for the bout between UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and PRIDE champ Dan Henderson.

The telecast also outperformed all broadcast and cable programming Saturday among men 18-34 (1.6 million) and men 18-49 (2.5 million), including college football on ABC and ESPN, NASCAR on ABC and the U.S. Open women's final on CBS.

Meanwhile, the debut of Nickelodeon's live-action scripted series "iCarly," which incorporates kid-created original content, averaged 3.5 million viewers at 8 p.m. Saturday, making it the network's second-most-watched live-action premiere ever. An 8:30 p.m. episode averaged 3.7 million viewers.

The next day, an encore airing of the premiere at 11 a.m. grew on the previous night's telecast, averaging 3.9 million viewers, while the 11:30 a.m. repeat of Episode 2 fared the best, averaging 4.1 million.

The show's Web site generated 270,000 unique visitors and 1.1 million streams on TurboNick for the week ending Sept. 9.

At HGTV, the penultimate episode of the reality competition series "HGTV Design Star 2" averaged 3.3 million viewers at 9 p.m. Its lead-out, a sneak peek of Vern Yip's new show "Deserving Design," drew 2.7 million viewers at 10 p.m.

The season finale of "Design Star" -- during which Todd Davis or Kim Myles will be revealed as the winner of his or her own show on HGTV -- airs at 9 p.m. Sunday.
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