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Ratings: ‘Parenthood’ Solid — But Is It Enough?

Millions in marketing make sure viewers tune in the first episode of the Ron Howard reboot. But was it a big enough bow to keep the show viable in week ahead?

NBC’s much-hyped "Parenthood" premiered Tuesday to respectable ratings, winning its 10 p.m. timeslot but showing no signs of being a breakout hit.

The first episode of the Imagine TV-produced reboot of the Ron Howard feature averaged a 3.1 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 8.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen preliminary national data. It held on to 94 percent of its lead-in (the 9:30 p.m. half-hour of "The Biggest Loser," which averaged a 3.3) and maintained its viewership at the 10:30 p.m. half-hour.

By itself, the number was a good one. NBC hasn’t regularly programmed the 10 p.m. hour with scripted programming since early September, and there had been worries that the failed Jay Leno-in-prime experiment would hurt the network’s chances of programming the 10 p.m. hour again. So to finish in first out of the gate ain’t a bad thing for the show, which was heavily championed by NBC Entertainment chief Angela Bromstad.

And yet….

NBC had been pushing "Parenthood" heavily during its Olympics coverage and via a large off-air campaign (including billboards at just about every major LA intersection). Rivals had already been calling it the most heavily promoted show of the season (though it’s hard to top ABC’s summer saturation campaigns for its shows). On Tuesday, some competitors also noted that last spring, "Southland" also scored a 3.1 demo rating in its NBC debut — only to drop sharply in future weeks, and eventually migrate to TNT.

Before the "Parenthood" premiere, one industry insider sympathetic to NBC said he expected the show would have a solid premiere, but that the soft nature of the show — it’s a family producer from the studio behind "Friday Night Lights," after all – would make it tougher to hold on to viewers in the following weeks.

The big question, then: Did all of NBC’s Olympics hype bring "Parenthood" an artificially high level of viewers who will tune-out having seen the premiere? Or — like Fox’s much-praised "Glee" campaign — did the marketing simply make sure that "Parenthood’s" potential core audience showed up, making it possible for the show to settle in at a number not dramatically lower than Tuesday’s premiere?

More on the rest of the night’s ratings shortly….

UPDATE 9:15 A.M.

One more "Parenthood" note and other highlights from Tuesday’s numbers:

–Fox’s heavily hyped "Glee" premiered in its regular timeslot last September to a 3.3 demo rating and just over 7 million viewers. It’s now widely seen as a success. So while the "Parenthood" number shows (again) that big sports events aren’t always the best promo platforms, it’s far too early to declare "Parenthood" a miss.

–"American Idol" did its thang, working it out to an 8.6/22 in the demo. It was down a half-rating point from the same show last year.

–The "Lost" mid-season dip is here. Its 4.0/10 was the lowest of the season, but still enough to finish a solid second in the 9 p.m. slot.

–NBC’s "Biggest Loser" got no post-Olympics bump; just the opposite. A few weeks off sent the show to a 3.1/8, its lowest original of the season.

–CBS’s "NCIS: LA" is having a pre-spring slump of sorts. Its 3.1/8 was 18 percent below its season-to-date average. Competition from "Idol" and "Lost" may be taking its toll.