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Will Chaz Bono Boost or Bust Dancing With the Stars? How Five Other Groundbreaking TV Stars Fared

LACEY SCHWIMMER, CHAZ BONO ABC/CRAIG SJODIN

The TV ratings verdict on Dancing With the Stars' Chaz Bono, already the focus of both support and threatened boycott, is a couple weeks off.

But history can tell us some things right now.

Here's a look at how other trailblazing small-screen stars were embraced—or not—by viewers: 

RELATED: Will Chaz dance to mom Cher's music?

 

 

 

1. Ellen DeGeneres: The 1997 coming-out episode of Ellen scared off some advertisers, but ultimately was watched by a now-astounding 42 million people. But that was not the end of the story. DeGeneres battled ABC over the series' direction, ratings fell and a year later the sitcom was canceled. But that was still not the end of the story—as evidenced by DeGeneres' long-running daytime talk show and her Emmy- and Oscar-hosting stints. The bottom line: Ellen, if not Ellen, won out.

2. Nat King Cole: In 1956, years before the segregation-smashing Civil Rights Act, the "Unforgettable" singer became one TV's first African-American stars. At least one Southern station reportedly refused to air the variety series, but Cole himself said overall ratings were good. The series was doomed to a short run, however, because of the one audience it couldn't win over: the mad men of Madison Avenue.

3. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Jr.: A bottle-dyed redhead and a Cuban native with a, ahem, "rather marked accent?!" CBS execs didn't think it would work, but were persuaded otherwise—first, by Ball and Arnaz, then, by the millions who made the show TV's first, and most enduring, sitcom hit.

4. Diahann Carroll: In 1968, the nightclub singer turned sitcom star in Julia, a then-rare TV series about an African-American woman who was a professional, and not a maid. Despite the charged times, the gentle comedy enjoyed a largely uneventful, three-season run.

5. Robert Reed: In 1975, the former Brady Bunch dad played a doctor who checked into Medical Center, a long-running hospital drama, for a sex-change operation. The two-part episode barely caused a blip, even though some in the media didn't even know how to spell transsexual ("trensexual"), much less transgender. Reed went on to earn an Emmy nomination; the series went on to rate a pink slip, but, in truth, had been on the Nielsen decline for years. All in all, not a bad lesson for DWTS, Bono or interested observers: An untraditional subject matter was addressed, and the world did not end. 

Elsewhere, here's a quick look at some of the TV week's ratings winners:

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: Would season two go on? Yes. Would people tune in? Yes. Monday's season premiere, which addressed Russell Armstrong's suicide death, scored 42 percent more viewers than its first-season opener, 2.2 million to be precise. 

Sons Of Anarchy Tuesday's season-four opener scored the series' biggest-ever audience, with nearly 5 million viewers.

The Closer: Jersey Shore took the holiday week off, so Kyra Sedgwick's Emmy-winner assumed cable's No. 1 spot in the just-released Nielsen rankings, with 6.8 million viewers. (Even in rerun form, Jersey Shore was pretty very big, finishing in seventh place.)

Summer finales: Royal Pains climbed to cable's No. 3 spot, Keeping Up With the Kardashians moved up to the top 20, and Pretty Little Liars vaulted into the Top 50. 

The new fall schedule: Right now, the sample size consists of exactly one show, but a good start's a good start, and that's what TV got courtesy Saturday Night Football, which scored a Top 10 debut in the broadcast standings. 

PHOTOS: Dancing With the Stars: Season 13

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