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'Rizzoli & Isles' Debut Sets Cable Viewership Mark

The premiere of TNT's new drama Rizzoli & Isles marks the biggest debut in ad-supported cable history.

The show, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, bowed before 7.6 million watchers during its July 12 debut at 10 p.m., according to Nielsen data. Benefiting from the sixth-season start of cable's top show, The Closer, which delivered 7.7 million watchers in the 9 p.m. hour, Rizzoli & Isles retained an incredible 99% of the Kyra Sedgwick-starrer's audience.

The Closer, which scored 7% more watchers than its fifth-season debut, and Rizzoli & Isles, rank as basic-cable top shows year-to-date among viewers and households, according to Turner officials. Check out a sneak peek of Rizzoli & Isles here.

 The show's opening episode ranks a close second behind the 7.7 million watchers for the September 2008 commercial-free debut of Raising the Bar among all series premieres on ad-supported cable, according to Turner officials. Rizzoli & Isles built on its lead-in from The Closer among key adult demos, with 2.08 milion adults 18 to 49 and 2.72 million adults 25 to 54.

Michael Wright, executive vice president and head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, during Turner's upfront presentation to advertisers in Manhattan on May 19, said Rizzoli & Isles was the most compatible lead- out TNT had ever paired with The Closer.

Based on the crime novels by best-selling author Tess Gerritsen, the crime drama stars Harmon and Alexander as Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, good friends and sometimes partners, who together solve crimes and bust some of Boston's most notorious criminals. Lorraine Bracco co-stars as Rizzoli's intrusive mother.

"The tremendous viewer response to Rizzoli & Isles is very gratifying," said Wright in a statement. "Rizzoli & Isles is shaping up to be a great companion for The Closer, which continues to deliver extraordinary numbers in its sixth season on our network."

The Closer, starring Golden Globe winner and current Emmy-nominee Sedgwick, kicked off its sixth season at 9 p.m. also netted 5,.72 million households. The Closer averaged just under 2 million adults 18 to 49 and 2.68 million adults 25 to 54.

Relative to other TNT original series that premiered or launched new seasons in tandem with The Closer, Rizzoli & Ives kept the Nielsens to a whole other level:

2006: Saved series premiere -- 5.1 million viewers vs. 8,28 million viewers for The Closer;
2007: Heartland series premiere -- 4.29 million viewers vs. 8,81 million viewers for The Closer;
2007: Saving Grace series premiere -- 6.42 million viewers vs. 7,29 million viewers for The Closer;
2008: Saving Grace season 2 premiere -- 5.16 million viewers vs. 7.81 million viewers for The Closer; and
2009: Raising the Bar season 2 premiere - 3.57 million viewers vs. 7.14 million viewers for The Closer

Source: Turner analysis of Nielsen data