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'D.C. Cupcakes' ratings have TLC licking its lips

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, July 20, 2010; C06

More people watched TLC's debut of "D.C. Cupcakes" on Friday night than watched the entire CW network.

About 1.124 million people got introduced to 30-something sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, owners of Georgetown Cupcake, in two back-to-back half-hour episodes at 10 p.m.

CW, meanwhile, clocked 1.07 million people in prime time that night.

Yes, we know, CW was airing reruns -- of "Smallville" and "Supernatural." But shouldn't CW be attracting more viewers than a little show on TLC about two siblings and their small business in D.C., even if their business is cupcakes -- the new status fetish?

More good news for Silver Spring-based TLC: The second episode attracted more viewers than the first. True, it was only 34,000 viewers more, which is tiny in TV-speak, but more is more. Audience growth at 10:30 p.m. gets all networks jazzed, because that's the hour in which viewers begin to opt for sleep over TV. The longer they stay awake, the more their attention can be sold!

More good news for cupcake lovers everywhere: Nearly half of the show's viewers -- 544,000 -- fell into the 18-to-49-year-old age bracket. This means advertisers on the show are very happy -- hoping that, as with all young lovers, if they love you today they'll love you tomorrow. CBS would kill for that kind of youngster fandom.

In case you missed the sugar-coated premiere, Sophie and Katherine, owners of the extremely pink business at 33rd and M streets NW, wanted you to know -- Reality-TV Cliche Alert -- they gave up brilliant careers in finance and Gucci-hawking, respectively, to pursue their dream of re-creating Grammy's cupcakes. Their Mommy hung around the shop being the fairly useless foil/important reality-TV stereotype.

In the first episode, the sisters agree to donate a huge Mardi Gras mask made out of a thousand cupcakes for a local fundraiser. By the second episode, the fetching frosters have become so filled with goodwill they agree to create a life-size dog out of cupcakes as a centerpiece for a local animal-rescue fundraiser.

"D.C. Cupcakes" isn't that far behind the 1.9 million viewers who watched the first episode of "Real World: D.C." . . . one of the "Real World's" worst opening audiences ever. See, viewers actually like reality shows set in Washington, but with sprinkled jimmies rather hot-tub splashes.

'Damages' control

Legal drama "Damages" got a last-minute stay of execution when DirecTV stepped in and offered to keep the show kicking for two more seasons, after the series was scuttled in favor of younger fare by FX network.

Glenn Close will be back to gnaw on more scenery in the upcoming episodes; Rose Byrne will also be back as will other "principal cast members" DirecTV said, without specifying.

Unlike DirecTV's deal for the high school football drama "Friday Night Lights," in which DirecTV's 101 channel gets each season first, after which the episodes get rerun on NBC, upcoming episodes of "Damages" will not be telecast on FX, which had been the show's home for three seasons.

DirecTV said in a statement it was excited to "breathe new life" into the drama, whose third season finale came and went in April. This was followed by deafening silence from FX as to its future, suggesting that the series had none.

In its third season, the initial telecasts of "Damages" had only averaged 927,000 viewers -- pretty puny compared to the 2.5 million who caught FX's lawman-shoots-to-kill drama, "Justified," not to mention the 3.7 million lured to the most recent season of the network's bad-biker-boys drama, "Sons of Anarchy."

But you know what they say about how in the land of the pygmy the 5-foot-1 guy is a giant? Well, 927,000 viewers may not play well in the executive suites of FX, but it's dandy at DirecTV, which is trying to build its 101 channel into a destination for quality dramas. And Close, as ethics-challenged attorney Patty Hewes, has already logged two consecutive Emmy wins for her unparalleled scenery-gnawing skills on this show, and is up for another statuette this year. Meanwhile, "Justified" star Timothy Olyphant? Snubbed on Emmy noms day, to FX's chagrin. Likewise each of those sons of "Anarchy."

But you know what really did in "Damages" on FX? Only 277,000 of its 927,000 devoted viewers were 18-to-49-year-olds who are Thisbe to Madison Avenue's Pyramus.

Meanwhile, a whopping 2.6 million of "Anarchy's 3.7 million fans are in the golden age bracket, as are 1.3 million of "Justified's" 2.5 million followers.

"Damages" producer Sony was anxious to add more episodes to the prestigious series' library because it is a big draw in the overseas market, owing largely to its all-star cast which, over the years, has also included Ted Danson, Tate Donovan, the aforementioned Olyphant, William Hurt, Martin Short, Marcia Gay Harden and Lily Tomlin.

All that prestige and all those Emmys notwithstanding, with numbers like the ones that "Damages" coughed up in its most recent season, Sony was in no position to play hardball with a prospective new buyer. On the other hand, DirecTV reportedly is not getting the show at a fire-sale rate.

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