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Best Sex Ever Helps Carnivale, K Street

HBO's new Sunday night series may be a little tough to explain, but viewers turned out Sept. 14 to decipher them for themselves. HBO's new drama Carnivale, using Emmy-winning comedy Sex and the City as its lead-in, started strong. The political reality-scripted hybrid K Street lost much of that audience, though.

Sex and the City's summer finale nabbed record marks, a 15.8 rating with 7.7 million viewers, making it the series' highest-rated episode ever. Sex, in its final season on HBO, now goes on hiatus until January 2004, when it will conclude its six-season run.

HBO ratings are based on the pay service's universe, which the premium network says totals about 38 million HBO and Cinemax subscribers.

Most of the Sex viewers stayed around to sample Carnivale, a dark drama set against the backdrop of a 1930s traveling carnival. The show opened with a strong 10.6 rating and 5.3 million viewers. It became the most-watched premiere of any HBO original, edging out the premiere of now-hit Six Feet Under by about 300,000 viewers.

But the audience thinned out for the debut of K Street, about a fictional Washington D.C. lobby firm that stars actors and real-life consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin and features politicians. The debut episode attracted a 6.7 rating and 3 million viewers.