Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Andrew Eccles/TNT

The Closer's back. One million viewers aren't.

TNT's hit detective drama kicked off its fourth season last night before, on average, 7.8 million viewers, the network said, down 1 million viewers from last summer's third-season opener.

The premiere audience was the smallest for the Kyra Sedgwick show since the first season's inaugural episode averaged 7 million back in 2005.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, last night's opener marked the first time The Closer began its season in July, rather than in June.

Still, even a smaller-than-last-year Closer is a big Closer.

Monday's premiere goes down as the year's most watched episode yet for a scripted series on cable. And while the show booked fewer viewers than its previous premiere, TNT reminded that it booked more viewers than its previous season average. (After last June's monster premiere, The Closer ended up averaging 7.4 million viewers through its December finale.)

Saving Grace, the Holly Hunter detective series that buddies up with The Closer, likewise was big, but in a smaller way. Its Monday night opener averaged 5.2 million viewers, down 1.2 million from 2007's inaugural premiere night.

While it's usually true to say that TV ratings always trend downward, it has actually been an unusually strong summer. Guess those unconventional detectives just like to go their own way.

Here are the ratings highlights from the TV week ended Sunday, per Nielsen Media Research data:

  • Last night's The Closer and Saving Grace ratings will be reflected in next week's rankings, meaning USA's Burn Notice gets the glory this week as cable's most watched comedy or drama series.
  • Another of the hot summer shows, Burn Notice's second-season opener averaged 5.4 million—up 35 percent over last summer's inaugural premiere.
  • Other top cable shows: USA's In Plain Sight (5.1 million), USA's Law & Order: Criminal Intent (4.9 million) and Lifetime's Army Wives (3.5 million).
  • Ashley Tisdale stepped outside the High School Musical halls with more success last week than Vanessa Hudgens. Tisdale's new ABC Family Movie, Picture This!, was TV's top movie of the week (4.3 million), outdrawing a Camp Rock rerun on Disney Channel (4.06 million) and an outing for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement on ABC (4.05 million).
  • With Project Runway's latest season yet to begin, the opening was there for Discovery's Deadliest Catch (3.5 million) and the Food Network's The Next Food Network Star (3.2 million) to nab reality show honors among cable shows.
  • Do children play outside anymore? An outing for Monsters, Inc. on a presumably bright and sunny Tuesday summer afternoon averaged 3.4 million shut-ins for the Disney Channel.
  • In broadcast TV, ABC's The Bachelorette (fifth place, 9.53 million) hit a season high for its surprise Jesse ending. The after-show did even better (third place, 10 million).
  • Fox's Christina-crowning Hell's Kitchen (ninth place, 8.9 million) couldn't overtake an especially strong America's Got Talent on NBC (first place, 12.7 million)—except in the young-adult demographic, where the reality show finished first.
  • Not to suggest that grandmas like looking at cute fuzzy animals, but the premiere of CBS' Greatest American Dog contest did rank sixth among all viewers (9.5 million), including the older, doting ones, and "only" 18th among 18- to 49-year-olds.
  • CBS' new summer cop show Flashpoint (15th place, 8.1 million) got off to a decent start, especially for the dead zone of Friday night.
  • Actually, the deadest zone is Saturday night. As NBC's numbers for two reruns there of My Name Is Earl attest—106th place, 1.7 million viewers for the 8 p.m. episode; 99th place, 2 million viewers for the 8:30 p.m. episode.
  • All those who counted on ABC's Wipeout (second place, 10.6 million) for a quick washout should be disappointed about now.
  • The Miss Universe pageant (27th place, 6.7 million), NBC said, "increased by 50 percent in 18-49 and 48 percent or 2.6 million persons in total viewers from its first half-hour to its fourth." Unfortunately, overall, it decreased in viewers for the fifth straight year, recording yet another all-time low.

Among the networks, CBS was the most watched overall, averaging 6.9 million dog lovers and others; Fox was the most watched network by foodies and other young adults.

In cable, USA was the top prime-time network (2.8 million), followed by Disney (2.5 million) and TNT (2.4 million).

Here's a look at the 10 most watched broadcast network prime-time shows for the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  1. America's Got Talent, NBC, 12.7 million viewers
  2. Wipeout, ABC, 10.6 million viewers
  3. The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose, ABC, 10 million viewers
  4. CSI, CBS, 9.9 million viewers
  5. The Bachelorette, ABC, 9.53 million viewers
  6. Greatest American Dog, CBS, 9.528 million viewers
  7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.1 million viewers
  8. So You Think You Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 8.93 million viewers
  9. Hell's Kitchen, Fox, 8.9 million viewers
  10. CSI: NY, CBS, 8.85 million viewers
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