LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sarah Palin's new TV show drew a bumper audience of almost five million people in its debut Sunday night, marking the largest viewership ever for a program launch on cable channel TLC, according to figures released on Monday.
"Sarah Palin's Alaska" -- an eight-episode series that is part travel show and part an inside look at the family life of the controversial Tea Party favorite -- was watched by 4.96 million people, most of them over 35 years-old, Nielsen data showed.
Sunday's episode showed the 2008 Republican vice presidential contender hiking glaciers, baking cakes with some of her five children, and encountering wild bears on a family fishing trip in her home state.
Palin, 46, is considered a prospective 2012 presidential candidate, and the TV show is seen in some quarters as an extended political promotion of her values and image.
"The first hour of the show, at least, played out as a shrewd, beautifully produced political ad intended to link the one-time vice presidential candidate in the audience's minds with an image that is home-grown, rugged and strong," People.com writer Tom Gliatto said on Monday.
Americans seemed as polarized by the TV show as by Palin herself, with some loving the program and others hating it.
But it also appeared to have changed some minds.
"I want to see what other politician's home life is like. I believed the news media about her, boy my options (sic) have changed. This morning I went to the library and got her book and I'm half way through it. I'm sold," wrote misco23 on the comments board of website of broadcaster ABC.com.
The TV series was launched ahead of the publication of Palin's second book "America By Heart". Her 2009 book "Going Rogue" was a best-seller.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte