03/07/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
The two-week-old NBC sitcom "Watching Ellie," starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, suffered a dip in viewership in its second outing Tuesday but still showed signs of life. "Ellie," in which the former "Seinfeld" costar plays a plucky but down-on-her-luck club singer, averaged 12 million viewers this week, versus the nearly 17 million who watched the Feb. 26 premiere, reports the New York Post, which called such a drop typical for most shows. What is surprising, the Post notes, is that "Ellie" built on its lead-in by a "Frasier" rerun by an astounding 46 percent in the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults aged 18 to 49. "Ellie" beat its rivals on other networks (Fox's "Undeclared" and ABC's "Spin City, which featured a guest appearance by Charlie Sheen's dad Martin) for the time slot in the 18 to 49 demographic, and the show bettered its "Frasier" lead-in by about 2.5 million viewers overall. On Wednesday's "Today" show, Louis-Dreyfus, 41, was asked by host Matt Lauer if she is sick of hearing about the so-called "Seinfeld curse." (Her former cohorts, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, went on to their own sitcoms that failed big and failed early.) "No," she replied sarcastically, "I'm thrilled by it." Though early reviews for "Ellie" were less than complimentary -- the New York Post had given the sitcom one star out of a possible four and the Wall Street Journal effectively wrote an obituary for the program -- some influential critics chimed in with kind words. Tom Shales in The Washington Post called the show "basically a smart and sophisticated situation comedy -- and yet it is still not as good or endearing as its star." Caryn James, in The New York Times, called "Watching Ellie" "funny and engaging."