Respectable Gains for Cable Reality

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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.