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Lost Finds Its Audience

In its much-talked-about second season premiere, Lost didn’t disappoint fans—or the network it has slung over its back.

ABC's serialized castaway drama, which helped restore ABC to ratings glory last season but stumbled in summer reruns, posted a huge 10 rating/24 share in advertisers’ key 18-49 adult demographic, according to Nielsen fast national data for Sept. 21.

An average 23.1 million viewers watched characters Kate, Locke and Jack descend into the mysterious hatch they discovered in last season's madding cliffhanger. Inside, the three found a mysterious man living among mainframe computers, outdated music LPs and lots of guns.

Last night’s Lost crushed the series’ September 2004 debut, which drew a 6.5 rating and 18.01 million viewers after a heavy marketing campaign in the weeks before.

ABC swept all three hours of Wednesday’s prime time schedule, averaging 7.5/20. The 9-10 p.m. Lost premiere was the top show in broadcast prime time, while first-season recap Destination: Lost broadcast buried its competition in the the 8 o’clock hour: NBC’s stiff hourlong debut of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (2.5/7) and CBS’ premiere of Still Standing (2.5/7), which aired from 8-8:30.

ABC’s series debut of Invasion posted impressive numbers, as well. It averaged a 7.1/18 and 16.9 million viewers—similar numbers to Lost's2004 pilot.

CBS, at 3.4/9, placed a distant second. In addition to Still Standing, the Eye premiered Yes Dear (2.5/7) at 8:30 and acquiesed to two reruns of CSI, grabbing 3.3/8 at 9 and 4.5/11 at 10.

NBC placed third at 3.1. After Martha Stewart’s underwhelming performance at 8, the series premiere of E-Ring didn’t do much better (2.6/6) in the 9 o’clock hour. At 10, old standby Law & Order swooped in to deliver a 4.1/11.

Martha may have seen those ratings numbers, because she was doing some major cross-promoting of Apprentice on her syndicated talker Thursday, including asking everybody in her audience whether they had liked it and twice running b-roll of fans watching the show from her company's headquarters the night before, where they were served refreshments. Finger sandwiches and tarragon lime-aide? Nope, beer and pretzels.

UPN rode the two-hour premiere of Next Top Model 5 to place fourth. The show scored a 2.3/6—not bad. This week could be a banner one for UPN, which unveils the imposs-bly-buzzed-about Everybody Hates Chris tonight.

Fox, meanwhile, found itself in fifth place at 1.9/5 on the night. The summer darling So You Think You Can Dance was a wallflower at 8 p.m. with a 2.5/7. Head Cases slinked in with a 1.3/3.

The WB (.6/2) was in last place with reruns of One Tree Hill and Just Legal.--John Eggerton contributed to this report.