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''Joe Millionaire'' debut sets reality ratings milestone

”Joe Millionaire” debut sets reality ratings milestone. Monday’s premiere drew 18.6 million viewers, more than any recent reality series debut

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Who wants to be a ”Millionaire” viewer? About 18.6 million people. That’s the average viewership of Monday’s ”Joe Millionaire” premiere, according to Nielsen. That’s the highest-scoring debut for any new series this season, and for any reality show of the past few years, from the first season of ”Survivor” in 2000 to ”American Idol” last summer.

Perhaps most surprising, viewership was 42 percent male, compared with 31 percent on average for ABC’s similar ”The Bachelor.” Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman attributed the high number of men watching to successful promotion of the show during the NFL playoffs. ”The male numbers were very high for a relationship-oriented show, and football was a dynamic part of this launch,” she told Variety.

Of course, ”Joe” will have only a seven-episode run, and it’s unlikely there could be a second season, as potential bachelorettes would already be wise to Fox’s bait-and-switch premise. Still, Fox expects to be able to capitalize on the show’s momentum by filling its Monday night slot with another courtship reality series, ”Married by America,” in which viewers decide which contestants will pair off and live together.