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'Falling Skies' Has Biggest Cable Debut of Year

Spielberg-produced TNT sci-fi series stars Noah Wylie

Frank Ockenfels | Will Patton, Drew Roy, Connor Jessup, Noah Wyle, Maxim Knight and Moon Bloodgood.

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The one-two punch of Steven Spielberg and rampaging extraterrestrials delivered solid ratings for TNT, as Sunday night’s series premiere of Falling Skies averaged 5.91 million total viewers.

According to Nielsen, the two-hour opening episode stands as cable’s most-watched series launch of 2011. The Spielberg-produced alien-invasion drama is also cable’s strongest debut since last summer, when TNT’s cop show Rizzoli & Isles drew 7.55 million viewers on July 12.

While Falling Skies easily outgunned 2010’s biggest series premiere on a rival network—on Halloween, AMC’s The Walking Dead scared up 5.34 million viewers—the TNT newcomer fell short of the zombie-apocalypse drama’s performance in the core TV demo. Whereas Dead opened to 3.57 million viewers 18-49, Skies delivered 2.64 million—a difference of nearly 1 million viewers.

Viewers 18-49 accounted for 45 percent of Falling Skies’ overall delivery. As is generally the case with TNT originals, the majority of those who tuned in for the premiere (55 percent, 3.24 million viewers) were members of the 25-54 demo.

“The enormous success of Falling Skies demonstrates what can happen when you partner with the best people in the business and give them what they need to do their very best work,” said Michael Wright, head of programming for TNT, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. “Falling Skies is an exciting, fascinating, and often moving story made possible through the magic of DreamWorks Television, an incredibly talented cast led by Noah Wyle, and the vision of one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Steven Spielberg.”