Big Ratings for 'Wife,' 'Wives'

Last week was a good week to be a wife on cable television.

Both USA's limited-run series "The Starter Wife" and Lifetime's new show "Army Wives" got off to strong starts, each setting some sort of ratings record for their respective networks.

"The Starter Wife," based on Gigi Levangie Grazer's novel and starring Debra Messing, drew 5.4 million viewers to its two-hour debut on Thursday. A little more than half of those viewers (2.88 million) fell into the holy-grail demographic of adults 18-49, giving USA its best-ever Thursday performance in that measure. The premiere also beat its broadcast competition among women 18-49 in its second hour.

In total viewers, "The Starter Wife" was the No. 4 show on all of cable last week, trailing only "The Sopranos" (8 million) and three NBA playoff telecasts on TNT.

"Army Wives," meanwhile, brought in 3.5 million viewers for Lifetime on Sunday -- the best premiere for an original series in the network's history. (The previous record of 3.3 million belonged to "Missing" in 2003.) It also did well among the female viewers Lifetime targets; its women 18-49 rating was the tops on all of cable in the time period and Lifetime's best in that hour since early 2004. Among women 18-34 it did better than anything in the timeslot since May 2002.

The series stars Kim Delaney ("NYPD Blue"), Catherine Bell ("JAG"), Sally Pressman and Brigid Brannagh as wives of soldiers living on an Army post in South Carolina.