Howie Mandel has starred in a few TV series, but before Deal or No Deal, he'd never starred in a TV series with two dozen or so models. His mistake.
The Mandel-hosted, model-graced Deal or No Deal wrapped its first season with a 90-minute finale watched by a series-high 18.2 million, per Nielsen Media Research. That number likely would have been good for a Top 10 finish if Deal had aired during the regular season, and it was more than good enough for a first-place finish against summer series and reruns in the latest Nielsen rankings.
The game show premiered last December, granted a one-week, Monday-Friday stint reminiscent of the early run of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Unusual for an NBC series in that it attracted viewers, Deal was enlisted as a midseason replacement in February. Its Monday installment (the show aired three times a week) easily ended up as NBC's most-watched show of the 2005-06 season, averaging 15.6 million.
Deal is scheduled to return in the fall, slotted for Monday and Thursday nights.
Prior to Deal, Mandel, 50, found a prime-time hit elusive. In the 1980s, he and his former hair appeared on the acclaimed, but low-rated St. Elsewhere. Later, he starred in the one-and-done comedies Good Grief and Hidden Howie.
Models, meanwhile, have a long track record of TV success, from America's Next Top Model to One Tree Hill.
Elsewhere in the TV week ended Sunday:
HBO's Entourage and Deadwood got lots of ink about their Sunday season premieres; USA's The 4400 and TNT's The Closer, also debuting Sunday, got more viewers. The 4400 was the week's most watched cable show (4.2 million) not starring muscular men in stretchy pants. Owing to multiple airings, The Closer took a couple spots in the Top 40. It topped out with 3.2 million. As for Entourage and Deadwood: Per Broacasting & Cable, Entourage parlayed its buzz into 2.7 million viewers, a significant improvement over its first-season premieres; Deadwood, meanwhile, cursed up a storm before 2.4 million, on par with its recent performances. If Eva Longoria is overexposed, the ALMA Awards isn't complaining. The Longoria-hosted ALMAs, honoring Latino actors and performers, drew a record 4.2 million (70th place) for ABC. Even more impressive, the award show was making its first network TV appearance since bombing in 2002 with 1.5 million viewers. The 2006 MTV Movie Awards was significantly down from 2005 (3.2 million compared to 4.7 million), its worst performance since before becoming an "It" destination for movie-promoting stars in the late 1990s. The 60th Annual Tony Awards, broadcast on CBS, played to 7.7 million (25th place) theater buffs and/or Four Seasons fans, up 19 percent from last year's near-record low. Overall, the showing was the telecast's best since 2003 (7.9 million). With ABC's Dancing with the Stars bumped up to fall-series status, Fox's So You Think You Can Dance has the summer spotlight to itself. Wednesday's installment ranked eighth (10.7 million); Thursday's finished ninth (10.2 million). For what it's worth, the new Luke Perry series, NBC's Windfall (13th place, 9 million), is starting off stronger than the old Luke Perry series, Beverly Hills, 90210, finished. (90210 averaged 8.4 million viewers in 1999-2000, its final season). CBS' Game Show Marathon is tuckering out--6.71 million (30th place) for Thursday's outing, 6.67 million (32nd place) for Wednesday's. Americans watch basketball (viewership for the first two games is up 13 percent, ABC said); Canadians or somebody watch hockey (Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, as broadcast Saturday in the United States by NBC, was accidentally accessed by 2.5 million, finishing 99th).
Overall, CBS offered the least amount of new product, and scored the most viewers, averaging 8.2 million. NBC finished second (7.3 million), followed by Fox (6 million) and ABC (5.8 million).
Here's a look at the 10 most watched prime-time shows for the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research:
1. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 18.2 million viewers
2. CSI, CBS, 12.44 million viewers
3. NBA Finals Game 2 (Miami at Dallas), ABC, 12.41 million viewers
4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.9 million viewers
5. NBA Finals Game 1 (Miami at Dallas), ABC, 11.5 million viewers
6. Without a Trace, CBS, 11.4 million viewers
7. The Apprentice 5, NBC, 11.2 million viewers
8. So You Think You Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 10.7 million viewers
9. So You Think You Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 10.2 million viewers
10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9.9 million viewers