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Viewers render harsh ratings verdict on 'The Firm'

Josh Lucas as Mitch McDeere in NBC's new series "The Firm."

"The Firm" may be guilty of complicating NBC's turnaround efforts.

The TV adaptation of John Grisham's bestselling thriller — starring Josh Lucas as whistleblowing young lawyer Mitch McDeere — delivered the long-languishing network's worst-ever premiere ratings for a new drama in the regular season (i.e., not counting summer). That includes "Prime Suspect" and "The Playboy Club," two NBC shows from earlier this season that already rest in the prime-time boneyard.

The two-hour premiere of "The Firm" delivered just 6.3 million total viewers for a third-place finish in its time slot, according to early data from the Nielsen Co. In the crucial demographic of adults ages 18 to 49, the legal drama slouched to a miserable 1.4 rating/3 share. The numbers were so awful that they made last year's comic-book romp "The Cape" — which opened to a 2.6 rating and was quickly canceled — look like a smashing success.

In fairness, Sunday turned out to a tough night to launch a new show, with a dramatic NFL showdown pitting Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers that delivered the best wild-card game numbers in nearly 25 years (the irony is that earlier this season NBC had been clobbering rivals with Sunday football games, only to see its newest show whacked by a post-season game on another network). "The Firm" will roll out in its regular slot this Thursday, which might provide a better gauge of its prospects.

But the rotten opening was the last thing NBC needed given that virtually its entire slate has bombed this season. "We had a really bad fall," NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt admitted to reporters this week.

On the bright side, NBC still has two widely anticipated midseason dramas, "Awake" and "Smash." For the network's executives, that means fingers crossed.

ALSO:

Josh Lucas dials up the paranoia in 'The Firm'

Tim Tebow's Broncos win nab best NFL wild-card ratings in 24 years

CBS remakes its morning show

— Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Josh Lucas plays Mitch McDeere in NBC's low-rated "The Firm." Credit: Steve Wilkie / NBC.

 

 
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