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ratings

Big Ratings All Over Cable Last Night

The USA Network hit factory shows no sign of slowing down. Opposite huge competition from pivotal episodes of Deadliest Catch and The Hills (more on that in a minute), the heavily hyped Tuesday premiere of Covert Affairs — starring Coyote Ugly star Piper Perabo as Sydney Bristow Annie Walker — brought in 4.9 million viewers at 10 p.m., building by 14 percent on the second-season premiere of White Collar (4.3 million viewers). While Covert attracted a smaller overall audience than some other big cable premieres this summer (including Rizzoli & Isles and Hot in Cleveland), the show's audience composition was far younger: Nearly half of its overall viewership was under 50, making it the No. 1 scripted series premiere on cable so far in 2010 in that key category. Covert opened against some massive competition Tuesday, which might explain why USA's newbie came in a bit below the network's big bow from last summer, Royal Pains (it earned 5.6 million viewers with its first episode).

As for said competition, Discovery's two-hour farewell to captain Phil Harris was a ginormous TV event, drawing a series-best 8.5 million viewers in the 9 p.m. hour Tuesday (up big-time from last week's old record of 5.3 million). A reunion/tribute special of sorts, After the Catch, did big numbers at 10 p.m., drawing 6.8 million tear-soaked fans. Impressive as those numbers are, divorce apparently trumps death in cable: Last year's "we're getting divorced" episode of TLC's Jon and Kate Plus 8 was seen by over 10 million rubberneckers.

Meanwhile, it was a good news/bad news situation for our pals at MTV's The Hills. Good: The series finale averaged almost 3 million viewers, with a heavy concentration of women under 35. Bad: At its peak two years ago, The Hills was drawing around 5 million viewers for key episodes. In other words, it was time to say good-bye and let The Situation enjoy the spotlight ... for a few more months.