02/28/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Tuesday night's premiere of NBC's "Watching Ellie," starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the third "Seinfeld" costar to try a new sitcom, did just fine as far as attracting viewers was concerned, according to early ratings. Sandwiched between two fresh episodes of "Frasier," the new show, in which Louis-Dreyfus stars as a put-upon club singer, drew some 16.7 million viewers, reports The New York Post. The Daily News says the number was closer to 16.99 million. Either way, the number is respectable. Neither Michael Richards nor Jason Alexander, her former "Seinfeld" cohorts, came anywhere near that kind of rating with their short-lived earlier sitcoms, prompting what has been called "the Seinfeld curse." Yet more importantly, as far as "Ellie" is concerned, notes the Post, the new show was a clear winner in the advertiser-hungry 18- to 49-year-old market. "It's too soon to tell with 'Watching Ellie,' " media analyst Marc Berman told the Post. "But its advantage is that it definitely got sampled. Nine out of 10 shows drop in their second or third week. The question is how long she will decline (in viewership)." Though early reviews were less than complimentary -- the Post had given "Ellie" 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."