NBC’s new reality series Average Joe got off to a above-average start last night, improving by 45 percent on the network’s Adults 18-49 average in the time period so far this season. It’s NBC’s highest in-season rating with regular programming in that hour since May 2002 and the highest Adults 18-49 result for a new reality-show series premiere on any network since January 2003.

Despite finishing third overall in its timeslot and airing at 10 PM ET, a time when viewership levels are traditionally lower than at the earlier 8 PM or 9 PM hours where most reality series air, according to updated in-home viewing figures from Nielsen Media Research, the 10-11 PM ET premiere of Average Joe (5.8 rating, 15 share among Adults 18-49, 11.2 million viewers overall) grabbed the highest Adults 18-49 rating for a new reality series (ie. not counting returning series such as CBS's Survivor or ABC's The Bachelor) premiere since Fox’s Joe Millionare premiered on January 6, 2003.

Last night’s Average Joe achieved NBC’s highest rating in that time period this season and highest for regular in-season programming since May 13, 2002 (Crossing Jordan season finale). Average Joe won the highly competitive hour among Adults 18-34 and Women 18-34. From its first half-hour to its second, Average Joe built its 18-49 rating by 0.7 of a point (to a 6.2/16 from a 5.5/14).

The 5.8 rating for Average Joe is a big gain over both NBC’s average 4.0 in the hour this season and 4.5 last season.

The only two new series to premiere this fall with higher Adults 18-49 ratings than last night’s Average Joe were shows that benefitted from much higher lead-ins, NBC’s Coupling and CBS’ Two and a Half Men.