NBC jumps high with return of 'Gladiators'

Muscular debut caps net's big week

"American Gladiators" made a strong return to television, with NBC's update of the 1989-96 athletic competition scoring a 5.9 rating/14 share in the adults 18-49 demographic and 12 million viewers overall in its two-hour debut Sunday. That's the highest-rated new series premiere on any network among adults 18-49 this season.

"Gladiators" posted NBC's highest nonsports 18-49 rating in the time period in three years, since the 2005 Golden Globes on Jan. 16, 2005. In total viewers, it logged NBC's highest 18-49 marks with nonsports programming in the slot since the 2006 Emmy Awards on Aug. 27, 2006.

"Gladiators" also ranks as NBC's highest-rated premiere for a new show since "Heroes."

For NBC programming chief Ben Silverman, who pushed hard to get "Gladiators" on the air, the premiere caps a solid first week of the year marked by premieres for "The Biggest Loser," "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Gladiators."

"We came out early against expectations, and I'm thrilled the whole week worked," Silverman said.

"Gladiators," produced by MGM Television and Reveille, marks the first network series produced by Reveille since the departure of founder Silverman.

"We feel validated for our creative judgment," said Reveille co-head Howard Owens, who also serves as an executive producer on "Gladiators."

The premiere of ABC's new drama "Cashmere Mafia" had a less promising debut behind the last original episode of "Desperate Housewives."

"Housewives" stood tall at 9 p.m. with an average of 19.8 million viewers and a 7.2/16 in 18-49, according to preliminary Nielsen results. "Cashmere" followed at 10 p.m. with a 3.8/9 and 10.7 million viewers overall, down 15% from the season average of "Brothers & Sisters" originals in the time period. It dropped 15% between the first and second half-hour.

For the night, ABC (12.8 million viewers, 4.5/11) finished tied for No. 1 among adults 18-49 with a football overrun-inflated CBS (15.3 million, 4.5/11), which was tops in total viewers.

NBC (11.2 million, 4.4/11) was close behind in the demo.