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Alcatraz Is No Betty White—It's Better?!

ALCATRAZ, Sam Neill James Dittiger/FOX

Alcatraz might've faced its toughest opponent last night: critics Betty White.

Here's the ratings breakdown on the premiere of J.J. Abrams buzzed-about new series

SAVE IT OR SINK IT? Cast your vote on Alcatraz

Alcatraz's two-hour opener averaged nearly 10 million viewers, per estimates, and notched a strong 3.3 rating among 18-49-year-olds.

Per Fox, the numbers were good enough to make it the network's most-watched drama debut since Human Target, and its most demographically desirable drama launch since Lie to Me

(And, no, things didn't exactly end well for either Human Target or Lie to Me, but still…)

Airing from 8-10 p.m., the Lost-ian series went head-to-head against CBS' comedies, and, well, lost because CBS' comedies, led by a clean-shaven Two and a Half Men (12.9 million viewers, 4.6 demo rating), can't be beat.

If that outcome was to be expected, then the wild card last night was White, whose 90th birthday celebration on NBC kinda rocked.

The 90-minute special hooked Monday's biggest overall crowd: 13.9 million. In its last half-hour, it outdrew Two and a Half Men by 1.5 million viewers, and The Bachelor by more than 7 million. 

As one might suspect, though, the nonagenarian was more popular with couch potatoes of a certain age than the AARP-ineligible.

The White special settled for a nice, not huge 2.7 demo rating from 8-9:30 p.m., running behind the CBS sitcoms and, yes, Alcatraz.

Which, if nothing else, can always say it took down the nation's sweetheart.   

Elsewhere, the weekly Nielsen rankings have been delayed by Monday's holiday, but here's a quick look at some of the key performances from the TV week that was:

Napoleon Dynamite (9.5 million viewers): Frickin'-good premiere. (Stay tuned to see how the toon does without a playoff-football boost.)  

Rob (13.5 million viewers): Super-sized premiere. Who knew Rob Schneider would go so well with the brainiacs of Big Bang Theory (15.9 million viewers)?

30 Rock (4.6 million viewers): Super-bad premiere. A 1.8 demo rating for Tina Fey's sixth-season opener.

Are You There, Chelsea? (6.4 million viewers): Nielsen-wise, a step up, or three over NBC's last 8:30 p.m., Wednesday comedy, the short-lived Free Agents. A good match with Whitney (6.1 million viewers), or vice versa.

The Finder (5.5 million viewers):  Nowhere to go but up for this premiering police procedural after blowing its Bones-lead-in (8.6 million viewers), and registering just a 1.7 demo rating.

• People's Choice Awards (8.9 million viewers): Least-watched telecast ever, not counting the year the show rolled up the red carpet

The Firm (4.2 million viewers): A 1.0 demo rating. In other news, Prime Suspect called—it wants its time slot back.

• Miss America Pageant (6.7 million viewers): Got clobbered by Tim Tebow, but posted its best demo rating in eight years.  

Parenthood (4.8 million viewers): Down a touch in viewers (to 4.8 million), up a touch in the 18-49 demo. Bubble watchers, take heart: No bad news is encouraging news.  

(Originally published Jan. 17, 2012, at 10:29 a.m. PT )

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