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HBO’s Enlightened Debuts to a Very Small Audience, Even for HBO

Laura Dern.

Over the last decade, HBO has made Sunday its signature night of programming, launching numerous well-reviewed shows that have also done well in the ratings: The Sopranos, Sex and the City, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, et al. Last night, the network decided to take one existing show that has done okay on Sundays (the comedy Bored to Death) and move it Mondays at 9 p.m., where it served as the lead-in for a new HBO series (the Laura Dern–led Enlightened). So how'd that work out? Well ...

Per Nielsen data provided by HBO, the third season premiere of Bored averaged 240,000 viewers Monday. By comparison, last fall's season two opener attracted 1.1 million. It's a massive drop for the show, attributable to no small degree to the fact that the then-brand-new hit Boardwalk Empire led into Bored last September. Last night, the series had to survive on its own, with no big HBO gun in front of it. No surprise, then, that with Bored barely registering, Enlightened failed to shine: HBO says the initial telecast of its debut was seen by a mere 210,000 viewers. While HBO can't be happy with this news, it probably isn't completely shocked, either. After all, its acclaimed (and now canceled) drama In Treatment, which aired on Mondays and Tuesdays, was drawing around 260,000 or so viewers last fall. The good news for fans of both shows is that while HBO loves getting big ratings, it's also never been afraid of supporting even micro-rated shows it loves, particularly if the series aren't lavishly expensive. The network's brass is said to love both Bored and Enlightened, so it would be a mistake to write off either just yet.

In other Nielsen news, Oprah Winfrey's OWN got some good news with the debuts of its new Rosie O'Donnell talk show and the debut of Oprah's Lifeclass. O'Donnell's gabfest drew 497,000 viewers in its 7 p.m. time slot, up 238 percent versus what the channel did in October 2010 (when it was called Discovery Health). Winfrey's show actually was less of a draw than Rosie O (awkward!): Her TV lecture was seen by 333,000 viewers on OWN; that's up about 100 percent versus October 2010. While neither show matched the 839,000 viewers OWN drew last spring with the prime-time Sunday debut of Shania Twain's reality show, the year-to-year gains are good signs for OWN, which has struggled since its January unveiling.

Photo: HBO