By Lynette Rice
January 04, 2011 at 05:09 PM EST

Image Credit: Bob D’Amico/ABCDid viewers respond unfavorably to all those ABC promos showing Chantal slapping Brad Womack? The 15th edition of The Bachelor had an embarrassing start Monday by posting its second lowest-rated premiere ever.

The two-hour reality show only averaged a 2.9 rating/7 share among adults 18-49, down 12 percent from its last midseason premiere on Jan. 4, 2010. (Each 18-49 ratings point represents 1.3 million viewers). It lured a mere 8.9 million viewers. ABC tried to put an optimistic spin on the night by saying Womack was tops among women 18-34. So that’s something (or not).

At least Womack’s woes didn’t hurt the return of Castle, which featured Laura Prepon as Nikki Heat: The drama earned a 2.4/7, up 26 percent from its series low on Dec. 6.

The night belonged to CBS, which aired originals of its comedies and Hawaii Five-O. How I Met Your Mother earned a 3.9/11 and 10.3 million viewers, followed by Rules of Engagement (3.4/9, 9.9 million),  Two and a Half Men (4.6/11, 15.3 million), Mike & Molly (3.7/9, 12.5 million), and Five-O (2.9/8, 10.8 million). Overall, CBS was No. 1 in viewers (11.6 million) and adults 18-49 (3.6/9). ABC was second (2.7/7, 9.2 million), followed by Fox (1.3/3, 4.3 million), NBC (.9/2, 2.6 million) and the CW (.4/1, 934,000).

Fox aired repeats of House and Lie to Me and NBC aired reruns of Chuck and a recap show of The Biggest Loser. The CW aired repeats of 90210 and Gossip Girl.

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