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Reality Goes Splat! Three Debuts, Three Duds

The return of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" fell flat Sunday as viewers continued to largely reject the networks’ attempt to serve up first-run fare during the summer.

Regis wasn’t the only one in need of a lifeline, however. CBS’s heavily hyped Mike Fleiss competition series "There Goes the Neighborhood" disappointed, as did ABC’s new Mark Burnett-produced hour "Shark Tank."

ABC had set expectations low for "Millionaire," and the show’s return met them. The first telecast in the 11-night "event" averaged a 1.5 rating/5 share among adults 18-49 and 6.98 million viewers from 8-9 p.m, finishing fourth in demos and third for the hour in overall viewers, according to preliminary fast national data from Nielsen.

The upside for ABC: That’s about 20 percent better than what the network had been doing in the 8 p.m. slot among adults 18-49 this summer. And "Millionaire" has shown it can build audience when it airs as an event.

Sunday has been a complete dead zone for the networks this summer, so the poor performance of all the new shows isn’t a big surprise.

And yet, CBS had to be hoping for something better than the 1.6/4 and the 5 million viewers who turned in for "Neighborhood" at 9 p.m. The show, which features Atlanta neighbors battling each other for $250,000, lost a huge chunk of its "Big Brother" (2.5/8, 7.2 million) lead-in and ranked third for the hour.

Still, there was good news in the numbers: "Neighborhood" did significantly better than the 1.1/3 CBS had been averaging in the 9 p.m. Sunday slot during the past four weeks.

Back at ABC, Burnett’s "Shark Tank" became chum, earning a fourth-place 1.3/4 and drawing just 4.2 million viewers. Once again, however, that was good enough to represent a 30 percent increase in the slot for ABC– but not good enough to represent anything worth bragging about.

All the newcomers were impacted by the return of pre-season football on NBC, which will likely lead the network to a win on the night when final numbers come out tomorrow.

Fox did fine with it normal lineup of animated repeats.