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Are Ralph Macchio and Kirstie Alley enough to keep 'Dancing With the Stars' ratings high?

March 22, 2011 | 10:54 am

Kirstiealley ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" returned for its 12th season Monday night, and network executives must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Despite a low-wattage cast that includes no tabloid breakout such as Bristol Palin or Kate Gosselin, the two-hour premiere still drew 22.3 million total viewers, according to the Nielsen Co. The figures were a convincing improvement over the 21.3 million for last September's Season 11 premiere. One could reasonably conclude that this year's ho-hum cast -- which includes former "Karate Kid" Ralph Macchio and famous yo-yo dieter Kirstie Alley - might end up holding its own even without, say, Gosselin's melodrama or Sarah Palin cheering from the sidelines.

But there are a few caveats for ABC in the data. "Dancing With the Stars" was off 8% compared with the 24.2 million who turned up last spring, when Gosselin made her heavily publicized debut. TV usage is generally higher in early spring than in early fall, which makes the comparison to the Season 11 opener slightly less impressive. And it's still too early to tell whether Macchio -- who topped the leaderboard after the first round -- will be enough to keep fans glued to their seats. We're guessing not too many are tuning in to see Mike Catherwood do the jive.

But ABC can do a jig over the numbers for now. The "Dancing" lead-in was so strong that the comic mystery "Castle" was propelled to season highs, with 12.7 million viewers tuning in.

What do you think of the new "Dancing With the Stars" cast, Show Trackers?


"Dancing With the Stars" recap: And they're off

Complete coverage of "Dancing With the Stars" on Show Tracker

-- Scott Collins / @scottcollinsLAT

Photo: Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy rehearse on "Dancing With the Stars." Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC