Fixer Upper, cable’s reigning reality show, returned Tuesday night in strong form.
HGTV’s home renovation show did not skip a beat in its first live-plus-same-day returns, though it didn’t reach a new series high. The 9 p.m. premiere averaged 3.4 million viewers, topping every other non-news telecast on cable for the night. (Full bragging rights for the night actually go to The O’Reilly Factor, which drew just shy of 4 million viewers to Fox News Channel.)
Compared to Fixer Upper‘s last episode, which aired in March, it was down by nearly half a million viewers. Still, HGTV is not in the business of caring too much about premiere draws. The network estimates that nearly 24 million viewers watch the heavily-encored series once all views are taken into account.
Fixer Upper was not cable’s only big unscripted effort on Tuesday night, as A&E debuted its controversial Scientology exposé with Leah Remini. The network saw its biggest series premiere ratings in more than two years with the launch of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which bowed to 2.1 million viewers. Strong by cable’s unscripted standards, it is the top A&E debut since Big Smo — come again? — in 2014.
Though only an eight-part series, the Scientology project’s strong bow comes at an opportune time for the reality-heavy network. Just this month, it announced the upcoming end of former flagship Duck Dynasty. Speaking of Duck Dynasty, the last time A&E got such a strong premiere showing for a new effort was when it could still launch hits on the heels of the former juggernaut.
Scientology and the Aftermath follows Remini, a vocal former church member, as she speaks with others who’ve experienced abuse and harassment from the controversial group.
In the demos, the show averaged 1.1 million adults 25-54 and 913,000 adults 18-49.