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Fox passes early audition with 'Glee' ratings, but real tests are to come

September 10, 2009 | 10:38 am

Given that Fox's new high school show "Glee" has already attracted a cult following, there was considerable speculation about how it would do in its official premiere Wednesday night.

Turns out the show passed a key audition, but it's still too soon to tell its ultimate fate. "Glee" attracted 7.3 million total viewers and won its time slot among the adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, with a 3.3 rating/9 share, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research.

That put "Glee" -- a kind of cross between "High School Musical" and "Freaks and Geeks" -- a strong No. 2 to NBC's "America's Got Talent" (9.7 million total viewers) for the night. And the Fox show easily beat "Talent" among young adults (3.3 vs. 2.1).

But Wednesday was an unusual night for prime-time TV, so there's no telling where "Glee" will ultimately settle. The other broadcasters -- but not Fox -- opened the evening with coverage of Pres. Obama's speech about health care reform, which disrupted normal viewing patterns (ratings for the speech will be available later). And since the fall season doesn't officially start for nearly two more weeks, the real competition hasn't yet weighed in. "Glee" will eventually face off against two crime shows with solid fan bases: NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" and CBS' "Criminal Minds," plus two new ABC comedies.

Fox is betting that "Glee" can be its breakout hit this fall. The network aired a special preview last spring behind "American Idol," and showed another episode to rabid fans this summer at the Comic-Con in San Diego. The network pointed out that "Glee" this week delivered Fox's highest rating for a fall scripted premiere in two years.

Wednesday also saw the season premieres of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" (6.5 million) and the CW's "America's Next Top Model" (3.2 million). Both series underperformed based on their past results, with "Top Model" dipping to its lowest-rated premiere ever.

--Scott Collins