Given a head start on the fall TV season, Prison Break got off to fast start Monday.

The two-hour series premiere of Fox's 24-style take on The Shawshank Redemption averaged 10.5 million viewers, tops for the night, per preliminary ratings from Nielsen Media Research.

The escape-minded drama, which made off with largely positive reviews, beat the broadcast competition to the 2005-06 season by about three weeks. Most shows will launch their seasons after the Emmy Awards on Sept. 18 presumably have reminded audiences of all the wonderful wares offered by network television.

In the meantime, Fox will remind audiences of all the Prison Break episodes it has to offer. Monday's premiere will be repeated Thursday. Then, it'll work Labor Day, moving to the 9 p.m. Monday hour, a time slot it can call its own until 24 returns in January (assuming low ratings don't get it before then).

Last fall, The Swan 2 was assigned to keep 24's time slot warm, but could only keep it semi-warm. The plastic-surgery pageant averaged an underwhelming 7.2 million. For the inmates at Fox River State Penitentiary, that might be the number to beat if they have any hopes of seeing daylight--or season two.


According to the Hollywood trades (Nielsen's cable rankings were delayed Tuesday), 8 million watched R. Kelly make Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's melodramatic Grammy performance seem understated by comparison on Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards. If that number holds, the show will go down as the least watched VMAs since Jamiroquai was in demand. An unplanned competitor for the VMAs was Hurricane Katrina. The catastrophic storm kept a combined 7.4 million hunkered down with Fox News, CNN and MSNBC during Sunday's prime time, per TVNewser. HBO's mega-sized Rome got off to a modest start, with 3.8 million viewers Sunday night, the trades said. In the pantheon of HBO shows, the debut puts Rome more in line with the latter-day, ratings-diminished Six Feet Under than the heydays of The Sopranos or Sex and the City. Small victories department: Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (13th place, 8.6 million) was the week's most watched non-scripted, non-sports show. Smaller victories department: The Wednesday edition of CBS' Rock Star: INXS (41st place, 5.8 million) hit a season high in viewers. A top five debut devolved into a 30th place season finale as the brats of ABC's Brat Camp (6.5 million) apparently wore out their welcome. Tommy Lee's higher-education quest continued to work modest wonders for NBC, with the 9 p.m., Tuesday installment of Tommy Lee Goes to College up to 18th in the 18-49 demo and 45th overall (5.5 million). In the race to post the summer's most disappointing rerun numbers, ABC's Lost (80th place, 4 million) outdid, so to speak, ABC's Desperate Housewives (71st place, 4.2 million).

Overall, CBS won the week, per usual, in total viewers, averaging 7.7 million. It also claimed the 18-49 flag.

Fox finished second in viewers (6 million), followed by NBC (5.8 million) and ABC (5.7 million). UPN (2.7 million) held the edge over the WB (1.9 million).

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

1. CSI, CBS, 12.2 million viewers
2. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.9 million viewers
3. Two and a Half Men (9:30 p.m., Monday), CBS, 10.9 million viewers
4. Cold Case, CBS, 10.5 million viewers
5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.2 million viewers
6. Without a Trace, CBS, 10.1 million viewers
7. Two and a Half Men (9 p.m., Monday), CBS, 9.8 million viewers
8. Monday Night Football (Preseason), ABC, 9.7 million viewers
9. CBS Sunday Movie--Stone Cold, CBS, 9.6 million viewers<
10. NCIS, CBS, 9.3 million viewers

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