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'The Sound of Music Live!' ratings: 18.5 million viewers

From left, Sophia Ann Caruso as Brigitta, Ariane

From left, Sophia Ann Caruso as Brigitta, Ariane Rinehart as Liesl, Michael Nigro as Friedrich, Grace Rundhaug as Marta and Carrie Underwood as Maria, Southold's Ella Watts-Gorman as Louisa, Peyton Ella as Gretl, and Joe West as Kurt, in "The Sound of Music Live!" from Grumman Studios in Bethpage. (Credit: AP)

And the numbers are in: NBC's live presentation of "The Sound of Music" is officially one of network TV's -- not just NBC's -- glowing triumphs of the year: 18.5 million viewers. Over three hours. 

Let me make this plain and clear: Network TV, except for football, just doesn't get this kind of crowd anymore. I can assure you - they are celebrating at "30 Rock," as well they should. This was a gamble that paid off, and paid off handsomely -- especially in social media, which was just off the charts last night. Love this live presentation -- which I mostly did -- or jeer (some tweeters did that too) people  were clearly intrigued, and mostly happy with what they saw. Yes, Carrie Underwood has a huge fan base, and doubtless it turned out in force for her. But the "Sound" franchise has an even bigger one. The double effect, along with the uniqueness of a live venture, made this thing explode. 

Why a triumph for "network TV?" Because it essentialy proves that old idea of a "national hearth" still has a certain vitality to it -- if the program is right. One little irony, perhaps,  is that a live presentation like this -- not done in half a century -- was lifted directly from the Old Days. It wasn't some newfangled gimmick.


PHOTOS: Compare stars from 3 different versions | Behind-the-scenes at rehearsals | Carrie Underwood then, now

MORE: Live Twitter reaction to highlights, flubs | 16 going on 17 pieces of trivia


Some more stats...

- Most tuned in during the 8 p.m. -- expected -- although the vast majority of the 19.7 million viewers who were watching at the peak time, 8:30, stayed around until the end: A total of 17 million viewers were watching at 11, according to "Fast National" Nielsen figures yesterday.

-Thursday's win for NBC wasn't merely unusual but essentially unprecedented in recent years -- perhaps many years -- as it's struggled on what was once a bread-and-butter night. Some reports yesterday indicated that this was the highest performance on the night since "ER's" April 2, 2009 finale. But "Sound of Music" exceeded that performance -- 16.2 million viewers over two hours.

- According to NBC, "With 18.470 million viewers, it’s the NBC’s most watched non-sports night on any night of the week since Jan. 15, 2007 (Golden Globes, 20.036 million)."

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