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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Laurence Fishburne's debut on "CSI" boosted the show to its best numbers since its ninth-season premiere in October.
Fishburne's first appearance as Raymond Langston spurred viewer interest in CBS' Thursday night tentpole show, and the network won every hour of the night.
"CSI" was seen by 20.9 million viewers, a tally bested only by the 23.5 million who turned out for the season premiere, according to Nielsen Media Research. Lead-in "Survivor" (13.2 million) was up slightly from last week. At 10 p.m., "Eleventh Hour" (13.4 million) enjoyed its best performance ever.
The potential ratings impact of William Petersen exiting "CSI" and Fishburne joining the cast is the most uncertain factor in CBS' otherwise stable midseason plans. The crime procedural was conceived as an ensemble drama, with a format that's stronger than any one character. But Petersen's departure is nonetheless expected to have an effect, with the network hoping the show will at least maintain its status as its top-rated drama.
CBS was aided Thursday by top competitor ABC's decision to air repeats of both "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."