Don't look now, but NBC's The Biggest Loser is proving to be a winner where it counts -- the Nielsen ratings.

Two months into the 2004 season, NBC's most successful new series isn't its heavily promoted LAX, Hawaii, Father Of The Pride or arguably even Joey (a series that, considering both its pedigree and exceptional time period, even NBC executives would acknowledge has performed disappointingly.) Instead it's shaping up to be a show that not only didn't have the benefit of being part of NBC's Summer Olympic promotion barrage, but also didn't even debut as part of the network's initial fall schedule -- The Biggest Loser weight-loss reality show.

Rushed to the airwaves to fill the time period of the prematurely-ended Last Comic Standing 3, The Biggest Loser made a splash with its special 90-minute October 19 premiere, drawing 9.9 million viewers and a 4.1/10 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic that represented the network's best non-Olympic performance in the time period since February despite airing versus Fox's broadcast of Game 6 of the Red Sox/Yankees ALCS.

The Biggest Loser took a bit of a hit (to 9.0 million viewers and a 3.7/10 in Adults 18-49) when its second episode was broadcast versus Fox's coverage of Game 3 of the Red Sox/Cardinals Word Series and was preempted for election night coverage the following week, but by then NBC executives had seen enough of the series that they decided to bench their much-touted Father Of The Pride series (probably permanently) in favor of broadcasting expanded 90-minute Loser episodes for the November sweeps period.

Since then Loser has continued to fatten up its ratings numbers despite taking on two other reality newcomers. Airing the first of its new supersized episodes versus the two-hour debut of Fox's heavily-promoted The Rebel Billionaire on November 9, The Biggest Loser left Richard Branson's series penniless, averaging 10.0 million viewers and a 4.1/10 rating/share in Adults 18-49. The performance nearly doubled Billionaire's paltry 5.1 viewers and steadily grew Loser's Adults 18-49 numbers throughout its broadcast.

The competition got even tougher when The Biggest Loser's oversized 8-9:30 PM ET/PT fourth episode overlapped with last week's 9-11PM ET/PT premiere of the sixth season of CBS's The Amazing Race 6, but Loser once again rose to the challenge. Beating the premiere of the two-time Emmy-winning reality show in their head-to-head broadcast period, The Biggest Loser delivered series' highs of 10.5 million viewers and a 4.5/12 in Adults 18-49 -- a figure that represented NBC's highest non-Olympic Adults 18-49 performance in the time period in over a year.

Given The Biggest Loser's continuing gains, it came as little surprise when NBC announced that it is currently casting for a second edition of the series that it hopes to air early next year. Additionally Daily Variety has reported that the network has quietly expanded the first season's run from the originally scheduled eight episodes to ten (and to possibly eleven) and made its expansion to a 90-minute format a regular part of its run -- events that will result in The Biggest Loser airing into mid-January.

As to why Biggest Loser has proven surprisingly successful where numerous other fall reality shows have failed, executive producer Ben Silverman told Variety that he feels the program's fresh concept (only PAX's Cold Turkey -- also recently renewed -- features a similar health improvement competition format) appealed to viewers. "Viewers haven't seen characters like this before," said Silverman. "Fresh ideas will always beat derivative ideas."

"We went for the heart," added executive producer J.D. Roth. "Telling these people's stories is why the show's working."