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Kathy Bates leads 'Harry's Law' to a surprising ratings win for NBC

January 18, 2011 |  9:40 am

Bates Kathy Bates topped off her debut as the star of a network series Monday with a surprising win in NBC's crime drama "Harry's Law."

An average of 11 million total viewers tuned in to the 10 p.m. show, according to the Nielsen Co.

That's not a huge figure by itself, but it's still surprising for several reasons. First, it's NBC, which has had trouble getting virtually every new show off the ground lately (for evidence, look at the "Harry's Law's" lead-in, the superhero show "The Cape," with a second episode Monday that sank to 6.2 million viewers). And "Harry's Law" -- with Oscar winner Bates as a defense attorney named, um, Harry -- was not helped by reviewers, who were generally dismissive of the show.

More notable, "Harry's Law" actually crept past CBS' "Hawaii Five-o" by 400,000 viewers. Not a commanding victory, but "Hawaii Five-o" is as CBS likes to remind us the season's No. 1 show. "Hawaii Five-o" was still tops in the key demographic of viewers aged 18 to 49 (2.9 rating vs. 2.1). But "Harry's Law," if it keeps up, could put real pressure on CBS among older viewers, which is traditionally CBS' strong suit. (Bates is 62.)

Maybe the most encouraging sign for NBC is that "Harry's Law" actually slightly built its audience as it went along, something that rarely happens during the 10 p.m. hour, when many viewers are getting ready for bed.

Of course, all of this could have been due to simple premiere curiosity, and over the next few weeks "Harry's Law" could still become a turkey. But the numbers suggest that's unlikely.

What do you think? Can Kathy Bates turn "Harry's Law" into a long-term hit?

-- Scott Collins

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

Photo: Brittany Snow, Kathy Bates, Nate Corddry, Aml Ameen. Credit: Matthias Clamer/NBC.