By Kate Ward
Updated June 09, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

On Sunday night, Kendra Wilkinson officially went from Hugh Hefner’s Girl Next Door to full-fledged star of her own series (creatively titled—you guessed it—Kendra). And we mean star: The series enjoyed the highest-rated series debut on E! since 2002’s The Anna Nicole Show.

So my first question is simply, why? I caught about ten minutes of the show but lost interest as soon as my inner feminist began begging for mercy while watching Kendra purchase a stripper pole—before furniture—for her new home. But there are a few reasons that may explain the big debut: Maybe E!’s built-in Girls Next Door audience tuned in in droves. Or perhaps Kendra’s laugh has officially bled into our consciousness and seized the part of our brains that control the remote.

Or maybe audiences are desperate to find their new Anna Nicole. There are certainly similarities between the late model and Hef’s ex: both are blonde, both are busty, both are bubbly and both are former Playmates (though, it should be said that Kendra is significantly more stable than Anna Nicole). It makes sense that both shows would find similar audiences, but it doesn’t explain why Denise Richards: It’s Complicated wouldn’t fare as well on the network. After all, the former Bond girl (as Dr. Christmas Jones, no less) is also a busty blonde who appeared in Playboy, right?

Did you watch Kendra, PopWatchers? What did you think? Is Kendra the new Anna Nicole? And are blonde Playmates to E! what ginormous broods are to TLC?

addCredit(“Smith: Everett Collection”)