‘Dancing With the Stars’ sets season-premiere record (thank you, Chris Brown)

March 30, 2011

The “Dancing With the Stars” results show Tuesday night bagged its biggest premiere audience ever.

More than 19 million people watched “DWTS” as “Loveline” co-host Mike Catherwood became the first celeb to get the hook on the 12th season of the ABC dance competition series.

Why the big audience?

Two words:

Chris.

Brown.

And now you know why ABC execs did not cancel the singer’s appearance on the reality series — as some “Dancing” fans thought they ought, after Brown threw a temper tantrum on ABC’s “Good Morning America” a few days earlier. Brown frightened some show staffers (who called security) and smashed a dressing-room window, which, fortunately, did not hurt anyone.

Oh, then Brown blamed “GMA” for his tantrum, saying he blew his cool only because Robin Roberts ambushed him when she brought up ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

A few terrified “GMA” staffers and a busted window are a small price to pay for these kinds of numbers.

How big are these numbers?

Well, the Catherwood ejecting beat the fall season’s results-show premiere, which clocked a whopping crowd of 18.5 million when word got out that Sarah Palin herself was going to show up (her daughter Bristol was among the competitors) and that the producers had to hire extra security for the set. That show had been the series’s record-holder until Tuesday’s broadcast.

Prior to last fall, the 10th season’s first results show drew 14 million viewers. And the ninth-season results-show kickoff logged 13 million viewers, as did the eighth season’s results-show premiere. You get the picture.

Thanks to Brown and his back story, ABC also enjoyed its best ratings in the Tuesday 9 p.m. hour since the 11th-season finale of “Dancing” — the one in which Bristol Palin made it to the last round of competition but wound up in third place, with Jennifer Grey winning the hideous Mirror Ball Trophy.

In case you missed Brown’s two performances on Tuesday’s show, viewers got a glimpse of him waiting to perform very early in the episode, dressed in a red suit that appeared to be equipped with some sort of safety harness around his torso. So we were expecting some seriously dangerous production number, like something out of Broadway’s “Spider-Man” show.

In fact, when he started his first number, he was in a pretend deserted alley, with a Dumpster and lights making a rain effect. “DWTS” did not invest much in the way of props for this guy.

An adorable kid dancer heralded Chris’s arrival with some break-dancing steps, and then it was off to a full-cast production of his song “Yeah 3X.” There were dancers dressed in Michael Jacksonesque outfits, dancers in judo outfits, dancers in “Miami Vice” suits. Chris really worked it — at one point, he launched himself toward the back of the stage with an impressive handspring (maybe he saw Robin Roberts coming at him with a microphone and a Rihanna question).

Wild applause erupted from the audience at the end. Chris seemed very happy.

When he returned for his second number — a reinterpretation of his hit “Forever” — he was joined by dancers dressed in body suits that lit up and flickered on and off. They looked like “Tron” extras.

Brown’s performance raised an interesting philosophical question: If you’re lip-syncing to Auto-Tune, is it really singing at all? Or is it a metaphor and analogy for singing? Only celebrity Kendra Wilkinson — the former Playboy mansion tenant who is competing on the dance show this year (she declared before Brown’s performance, “I’m a metaphor and analogy person”) — could answer that, but she was backstage reading Proust.

‘Body of Proof’ scores big

With the boffo-rated “DWTS” results show as her lead-in, Dana Delany copped the biggest Tuesday-at-10 crowd on ABC in six years for a regular one-hour program.

About 14 million people checked out Delany’s new crime drama, “Body of Proof” — the biggest crowd for a regular one-hour show in the time slot since the series finale of “NYPD Blue.”

Among 18- to-49-year-olds, Delany’s “Body” scored the best time-slot results in more than four years with a regular one-hour series.

Bad news for “Detroit 1-8-7,” the cop show that has held the time slot this season: “Body” more than doubled its season average.

“Body” is ABC’s most-watched midseason drama launch in six y ears, since the start of “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2005. It’s also this TV season’s second-most-watched series debut on any network, behind only the fall launch of CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O.”

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