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ABC's 'Housewives' starts strong

NEW YORK -- For a network desperate for hits, "Desperate Housewives" provided quite the tonic for ABC.

The drama about suburban angst drew a stunning 21.3 million viewers for its premiere Sunday night, according to Nielsen Media Research. It follows the success of another new ABC drama, "Lost," which has also intrigued viewers during the first two weeks of the TV season.

They're encouraging early signs for a network that slumped to fourth place behind CBS, NBC, and Fox last year and has been one of parent Walt Disney Co.'s biggest problem spots.

"Desperate Housewives" drew more viewers for a season premiere than any ABC series since "Spin City" eight years ago, Nielsen said. It was the best debut of any non-spinoff series since "Inside Schwartz" on NBC in 2001.

"It's good for broadcast TV that people are coming out in droves to things that are different and things that they're excited about," said Stephen McPherson, ABC entertainment president.

Two weeks ago, ABC had 18.7 million viewers for "Lost," its drama about tropical island castaways who are a carnivore's potential snack. "Lost" had 17 million viewers for its second showing, considered a strong audience retention rate for a new series.

Both shows drew good reviews and were the subject of aggressive marketing campaigns.

Two other potential bright spots for ABC: "Wife Swap" is holding up well against strong competition, and "Boston Legal," the drama created out of the ashes of "The Practice," had 13.8 million viewers Sunday.

"I think this is going to be a turnaround season for them," said Steve Sternberg, a television analyst for ad buyers Magna Global.

Both "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" represent something different for broadcast networks, which have depended heavily on procedural crime dramas and reality shows recently, he said.

'Champ' is moved to neutral corner


NEW YORK -- "The Next Great Champ" had to fight in court just to get on the air, but the boxing reality series couldn't survive a battering in the ratings.

Fox confirmed late Monday that the show -- which debuted in fourth place in its time slot last month -- will move from the broadcast network to Fox Sports Net, where it will stay in the ring through mid-November.

"Despite its loyal core audience, the underlying boxing theme of the series has proved too narrow for us," Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said in a statement. "In the end, it belongs on an outlet better suited to serve the boxing fan."

"The Next Great Champ" was unveiled to fanfare in May, but the show drew legal fire from DreamWorks and Mark Burnett Productions, producers of "The Contender," a similar boxing-themed series set to debut later this season on NBC.

DreamWorks sought a legal injunction against Fox to block the premiere of "Champ," but a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the request.

FSN plans to launch "Champ" on Sunday with a marathon of its first four episodes. Then the unaired five episodes of "The Next Great Champ" will air at 6 p.m. Oct. 17-Nov. 14, with repeats at midnight Sunday and 9 p.m. Monday. It hasn't been determined when the finale will air.

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Globe on NECN

Here's what's happening on "Around the Globe" today on NECN:
* 9:30 a.m.: "Talk of New England"
* 12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Child Caring columnist Barbara Meltz and Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor on protecting your kids from marketers.
* 4 p.m.: "Around the Globe"
* 6:30 p.m.: "New England Business Day"
* 8 p.m.: "NewsNight" Schedule is subject to change.

On Boston.com


Noon: Chat about manners with Millie Downing, author of Miss Conduct in the Sunday Globe Magazine.
Noon: Chat with the Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes about the Red Sox and the playoffs.

Talk of the dial


4 p.m. WBIX-AM (1060) -- "Market Wrap." Guest: Alex Motola, managing director at Thornburg Investment Management, analyzes the day on Wall Street.

Other radio highlights


8 a.m. WGBH-FM (89.7) -- "Classics in the Morning." Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 1; Pierne's "Cydalise et le chevre-pied."
9 a.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony; Grieg's "Holberg" Suite.

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