In one of its easiest calls in several years, ABC has given full-season orders to its two first-year hits, “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”
Given the out-of-the-box success of both shows, it’s almost a little surprising the network waited this long to make the announcement. “Desperate Housewives” is the most-watched new series of the season — and third overall — while “Lost” is No. 3 among first-year shows (CBS’ “CSI: NY” is second).
“‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Lost’ each bring something unique to the table, and we’re thrilled that audiences responded from day one,” says Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment. “Creatively, these two shows only continue to get better.”
The two shows have also provided a boost for McPherson, who helped develop them as head of Touchstone TV and put them on the air when he moved to the network in the spring. They’ve helped reverse the slide the network has been in for the past few seasons, during which several top executives have been shown the door.
The darkly comic soap “Desperate Housewives,” which stars Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria, has drawn more than 20.8 million viewers per week through its first three episodes. It’s the most-watched show on Sunday night, and just as important, draws a stellar 9.0 rating in the ad-friendly demographic of adults 18-49.
“Lost,” meanwhile, has emerged as the dominant program in its 8 p.m. Wednesday spot. The drama about plane-crash survivors from J.J. Abrams (“Alias”) and Damon Lindelof (“Crossing Jordan”) averages about 17.6 million viewers a week and has improved the network’s 18-49 ratings for the hour by 40 percent over the comparable period last season.
Fueled by the two new shows, along with “Monday Night Football” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC is one of only two broadcast networks, along with CBS, to improve its ratings over last year in the early part of the season. ABC’s total-viewer numbers and adults 18-49 ratings are both up about 5 percent.
The two ABC shows join NBC’s “Joey” and The WB’s “Jack & Bobby” in earning full-season orders.
The “Desperate Housewives” pickup also creates a dilemma — albeit one ABC executives are probably happy to have: what to do with “Alias” when it returns in January.
The network said at its May upfront presentation that “Alias” would return to its old 9 p.m. Sunday spot at midseason. But while the show has an intensely loyal fan base, its ratings have never approached those that “Housewives” is now drawing in the time period. The network may have to do some schedule juggling to find it a home.