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Respectable Gains for Cable Reality

Cable networks continue to notch modest ratings successes as they crank out reality series this summer.

FX’s Morgan Spurlock documentary series 30 Days ended its six-episode run Wednesday, averaging 1.4 million total viewers (1 million 18-49) and a 1.2 household rating for the season. That’s decent, but still not near what its dramas pull – Rescue Me’s July 12 episode, for example, earned 2.35 million total viewers, while 30 Days’ finale, about a binge drinking mother, pulled in 1.5 million.

The hour-long show, which each week profiled someone living a lifestyle different from their own for a month, marked the first of FX’s summer expansions into areas different from its highly successful dramas. Two new dark comedies, Starved and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia begin August 4 and Steven Bochco’s Iraq drama Over There starts July 27.

In other ratings news this week, A&E’s two new reality entrants, Criss Angel Mindfreak and Inked bowed Wednesday night. Back to back episodes of Criss Angel at 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. averaged a respectable 1.8 million total viewers (1.1 million adults 18-49) with a 1.3 household rating. Back to back episodes of tattoo-parlor reality show Inked starting at 9 p.m. didn’t do as well, earning an average 986,000 total viewers (615,000 adults 18-49) and a 0.9 household rating. The night before, TLC’s own tattoo parlor reality show, the hourlong Miami Ink, earned a 1.0 household rating in its debut with 2.1 million total viewers at 10. (Perhaps TLC beat A&E to the tattoo-parlor punch.)

ABC Family’s reality series on tennis’ Williams sisters, Venus and Serena: For Real, earned 1.5 million total viewers and a 1.2 household rating at 10 p.m. July 20. That made the premiere ABC Family’s highest-rated ever for an unscripted series. The network is already having a good summer in terms of ratings – original drama Wildfire is gaining viewers weekly (20% more viewers 18-49 last week) and has improved the network’s average rating in the demo to 0.7 this year, 75 percent higher than last year.