Here comes the judge: Steve Harvey an initial hit

NEW YORK (AP) — Judge Steve Harvey? At least for its first week, having the comic serve as a reality show arbiter seems like an inspired idea.

His show’s premiere was the most-watched non-football program on ABC last week, its audience of 5.2 million people nearly two million more than a season-opening episode of the much better known “The Bachelor,” the Nielsen company said.

Just before the debut, the Daily Beast’s Kyndall Cunningham predicted “Judge Steve Harvey” would leave viewers laughing and in awe of the host’s branding capabilities.

“Despite the innate absurdity of the project — mainly in that Harvey is not a judge nor has any legal experience — his entry into the ecosystem of network court shows is an undeniably astute move,” Cunningham wrote.

He arbitrates disputes, much like any TV judge, but his show lacks the self-serious demeanor of other shows that try to replicate a real-life courtroom, she said.

Despite the good vibes, Harvey couldn’t much help the well-reviewed sitcom, “Abbott Elementary,” that premiered in the next time slot last week to an audience of 3.45 million people, Nielsen said.

CBS was the most popular network in prime time last week, averaging 5.5 million viewers. NBC had 5.2 million, ABC had 4.8 million, Fox had 3.3 million, Univision had 1.7 million, Ion Television had 1.04 million and Telemundo had 950,000.

ESPN was the top-rated cable network, averaging 3.37 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.25 million viewers, MSNBC had 1.24 million, Hallmark had 1.2 million and HGTV had 1.17 million.

Evening news ratings were not immediately made available by Nielsen.

For the week of Jan. 3-9, the 20 most popular prime time shows, their networks and viewerships:

1. NFL Football: L.A. Chargers at Las Vegas, NBC, 17.69 million.

2. NFL Football: Dallas at Philadelphia, ABC, 13.7 million.

3. “NFL Pregame,” NBC, 13.08 million.

4. “The OT,” Fox, 12.11 million.

5. “NFL Pregame,” ABC, 11.93 million.

6. NFL Football: Cleveland at Pittsburgh, ESPN, 11.78 million.

7. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 9.9 million.

8. “Football Night in America, Part 3,” NBC, 9.59 million.

9. “FBI,” CBS, 8.52 million.

10. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 7.39 million.

11. “The Equalizer,” CBS, 7.18 million.

12. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 7.15 million.

13. “NCIS,” CBS, 6.939 million.

14. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 6.937 million.

15. “NFL Pregame” (Monday), ESPN, 6.68 million.

16. NFL Football: Dallas at Philadelphia, ESPN, 6.51 million.

17. “Ghosts,” CBS, 6.48 million.

18. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 6.07 million.

19. “Chicago PD,” NBC, 6.063 million.

20. “FBI: International,” CBS, 6.062 million.

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