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'Jericho': The numbers are in

February 13, 2008 | 11:16 am

Now that "Jericho" has officially returned to the CBS schedule (thanks to a passionate fan base and some uncharacteristically merciful network executives) the big question can finally be answered. How did it do in the ratings?

The answer: About the same as always.

Nobody will call CBS nuts for bringing it back, especially given a prime-time schedule devastated by the recently ended strike, but the jury remains out on whether the producers should get ready to use that series finale ending they reportedly shot to provide closure if true cancellation looms.

According to Nielsen's fast national ratings, the season premiere drew 7.2 million viewers and a 2.5 rating in the 18-49 demo. That's on par with its first season averages: 9.5 million viewers/2.8 18-49 rating.

"Jericho" held on to most of its lead-in, the season premiere of "Big Brother 9" (7.3 million viewers, 2.7 in 18-49) and grew 132% from the network's 18-49 ratings a week before (although that was anemic Super Tuesday news coverage). The show was flat in the 18-49 demo compared with what CBS drew a year ago in the time slot with a special "Without a Trace" repeat.

Although "Jericho" placed third in total viewers behind ABC's "Boston Legal" and NBC's slot leading "Law & Order: SVU" repeat, it nearly matched NBC for the lead in the 18-49 demo.

Now for some positive spin. The "Jericho" renewal campaign was driven by the show's loyal online fan base -- something uncommon for CBS. And whether the network liked it or not, the first several episodes of the new season have been available on the Web as unsanctioned downloads for weeks now. It's safe to say that "Jericho" fans are also savvy enough to know they can catch the show in a variety of other ways, including TiVo and CBS' own website.

The strike can also be viewed as a mixed blessing for "Jericho," providing what seemed like a clear path against heavyweight scripted competition, but significantly lowering CBS' season averages and giving the network a smaller audience to promote fresh episodes to. Even Sunday's Grammys were down considerably.

But enough about ratings. If you're in L.A. this weekend, you'll have a chance to preview next week's episode and catch a panel discussion with "Jericho" stars Kenneth Mitchell, Brad Beyer, Alicia Coppola, Sprague Grayden, Bob Stephenson and latest addition Esai Morales (he's fitting in nicely, isn't he?), as well as producers Carol Barbee, Karim Zreik and Don Shotz, at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention at the Shrine Auditorium. Doors open at 10 a.m., but the "Jericho" screening starts at 1 p.m., with the panel to follow at 2.

I'll be there to file a report next week, and if you're planning on attending drop me a line. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the season premiere and all things "Jericho."

-- Geoff Berkshire

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