Good Ratings Start for USA’s The Starter Wife

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The Starter Wife started well for USA Network.

The first third of USA's six-hour limited-series adaptation of the Gigi Levangie Grazer novel of the same name averaged a 4.3 cable rating, 4.1 million households and some 5.4 million viewers May 31, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

The show -- starring Debra Messing as a wife coming to grips with her place in Tinseltown society after being dumped by her studio-executive husband for a younger model -- also played big among adults 18-49 and 25-54, attracting 2.9 million and 2.8 million of those respective viewers from 9 p.m.-11 p.m.

The debut of Starter Wife, according to USA officials, marked the network's biggest original premiere among adults 18-49 since The 4400 dropped in during July 2004. It also eclipsed FX's Dirt(29% greater among 25-54s and 22% above that show's grab with 18-49s) and that network's The Riches (27% among the former demo, 14% with the latter) as ad-supported cable's top original-series telecasts in 2007.

Among the other Nielsen accolades: The Starter Wife pushed USA to its biggest performance ever among persons 18-49 and 25-54 on a Thursday night; the show ranked first on cable in primetime May 31 among persons 25-54 and women 25-54 and 18-49; and the characters networks ranked first in all of television with women 18-49 from 10 p.m.-11 p.m.

Now several questions remain. No, this is not about whether Messing's Molly Kagan character finds herself, new love and happiness. Rather, the queries concern whether the limited series' final four hours, playing through June 28, will maintain Nielsen momentum. And, in turn, will USA officials push to move Starter Wife on to series form, as the network did with The 4400? Previously, network executives said they would consider such a transformation if Starter Wife proved popular.

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