"Dexter" season finale slashes records

Actress Jennifer Carpenter (L) with her husband Michael Hall (R) from the series "Dexter" arrives on the red carpet at the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The fourth-season finale of Showtime’s “Dexter” was seen by 2.6 million viewers on Sunday -- blowing away all modern records for the cable network.

The brutal “Dexter” closer was the most-watched original series episode ever on Showtime, and the most watched telecast since a Mike Tyson fight in 1999. “Dexter” was 54% higher than last year’s finale.

The season three finale of “Californication” was also a series high, 1.1 million viewers, though still dropping considerably from its “Dexter” lead in.

E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” also had a record-setting episode Sunday, the fourth-season premiere drawing a record 4.1 million viewers. That made it the most-watched telecast on the network in seven years. TV Guide’s “I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story” drew 1.1 million viewers, ranking as the network’s most-watched TV special in its history.

On broadcast, “Oprah’s Christmas at the White House” special performed solidly for ABC, drawing 11.8 million viewers. Aside from the American Music Awards, that’s ABC largest audience in the time period this season, despite its 10 p.m. slot having a reduced lead-in from a two-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (10.3 million) instead of “Desperate Housewives.”

NBC’s telecast of “Sunday Night Football” once again dominated overall, the Philadelphia at NY Giants game drawing strong early numbers (18.6 million). CBS’ airing of “60 Minutes” (14.6 million), “Cold Case” (9.8 million), and crime drama repeats was boosted by some NFL overrun.

Fox’s animation block was down, with “The Simpsons” (7.1 million), “Cleveland” (6.5 million), “Family Guy” (7.7 million) hitting season lows, followed by “American Dad” (6.2 million).