NBC sees some hope with Thursday premieres

Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:11pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A pair of series premieres Thursday night gave NBC hope for an eleventh-hour comeback this season.

The 10 p.m. debut of the network's new cop drama "Southland" was narrowly topped by the premiere of CBS' mystery-thriller "Harper's Island," while Amy Poehler's comedy "Parks & Recreation" opened to a solid number.

"Southland" (9.9 million viewers), from "ER" producer John Wells, built solidly on its "30 Rock" lead-in (6.7 million).

"Harper's Island" pulled in more viewers (10.2 million), but it lost a big chunk of its "CSI" lead-in (16.7 million), and lost viewers during the telecast. ABC aired repeats.

NBC surrounded 8:30 p.m.'s "Parks" (6.9 million) with two original episodes of "The Office" (7.3 million and (8 million). It replaced "Kath & Kim," which premiered to 7.5 million viewers last October and went on to average 4.9 million during its 17-episode run.

Neither of NBC's premieres posted numbers the fourth-ranked network would have celebrated last fall. But coming near the end of another difficult season, they're refreshing in the wake of dismal performances by the likes of "Kings" and "Chopping Block."

"Clearly it's a marathon and not a sprint, but we're really invested in these shows, and they are really super-high quality, and last night gives us some space and belief that they'll continue to perform," NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman said.

"Southland" and "Parks" demonstrated what could be described as "inconclusive potential" Thursday night, and the network hopes that when heavy-hitting ABC returns to originals in two weeks, the new shows will hold their own.

(Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters)

<p>The entrance to offices of television network NBC in Burbank, California, on August 25, 2003. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>