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The Starter Wife Scores for USA

USA's heavily marketed limited series The Starter Wife turned in a solid performance for the network in its two-hour premiere last night (May 31), averaging 5.4 million viewers, with 53% of its audience composed of adults 18-49 (2.9 million). The episode, which ran from 9-11 p.m., was the first of five consecutive weeks of the show, an adaptation of the Gigi Levangie Grazer novel starring Debra Messing.

The premiere more than doubled USA's average primetime audience in May - 2.3 million viewers, but it wasn't quite as big as that of its The 4400. That show debuted as a limited series in July, 2004 to 7.4 million viewers and ran for five weeks before USA greenlighted it to a full series. It returns this summer for a fourth season.

Still, Starter's premiere is a solid hit for USA. In the adults 18-49 demographic, it topped the summer, 2006 series premiere of Psych on the network, the most-viewed new cable scripted original of last year. And with 2.76 million adults 25-54, it matched Psych's premiere audience in that demo.

Starter also outperformed the broadcast networks with women 18-49 for its 10 p.m. hour, a feat for the cable network even though both CBS and ABC programmed reruns (Shark and Grey's Anatomy, respectively) and NBC aired a new episode of its cast-off Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

The big question now is whether USA will greenlight Starter to series as it did with 4400. Network executives have said they are not averse to developing a similarly themed program if the limited series continues to perform through its run.

Other big cable limited series premieres include TNT's 12-hour Into the West, which debuted to 6.47 million viewers in June, 2005; Sci Fi's Taken - 6.1 million in December, 2002; and Lifetime's Beach Girls - 3.6 million in July, 2005.

In other NBC U cable network ratings news, Bravo's reality show Shear Genius finished its first season run with 1.3 million total viewers and 859,000 viewers 18-49 on May 30 - up 34% from the average of the seven prior episodes and almost three times Bravo's primetime average audience in May - 488,000. No word on whether that show has been picked up for another cycle.