So much for the widely accepted idea that a "maturing" television show's ratings can't go anywhere but down as it hits double-digit seasons... as well as any lingering thoughts that NBC's Joey will ever prove itself a worthy inheritor of Friends' Thursday night time period.

The tenth season premiere of CBS's Survivor series delivered huge ratings in its Thursday night debut, swamping its NBC competition and becoming most watched non-Super Bowl Survivor premiere since the franchise's Survivor: Africa third edition debuted nearly three and a half years ago.

In a performance that underscored the ongoing disintegration of NBC's one-time "Must See TV" lineup, Survivor: Palau premiered to 23.66 million viewers on Thursday, February 17 -- a figure that represented a remarkable 4 million viewers increase over the 19.64 million viewers that last season's Survivor: Vanuatu averaged during its Fall 2004 run and 3.6 million more viewers than Vanuatu's premiere.

Dominating its 8-9PM ET/PT time period in all key demographics, Survivor: Palau's debut also delivered a 13.3/21 rating/share in households, a 6.7/19 in Adults 18-34, a 9.1/23 in Adults 18-49, and a 10.5/24 in Adults 25-54 -- Survivor's best households and Adults 18-49 figures since Survivor: The Amazon's February 13, 2003 broadcast and its best Adults 18-54 numbers since Survivor: Africa premiered on October 11, 2001.

Survivor's performance allowed it to lap original episodes of NBC's Joey and Will & Grace in just about all key metrics. Neither NBC sitcom managed to break the 10 million viewers mark -- a milestone that represented Will & Grace's worst original episode performance of the season and Joey's second-worst -- and while the sitcoms still managed to place second in their time periods among both overall viewers and Adults 18-49, they weren't as fortunate among Adults 18-34, where The O.C.'s 4.6/14 ranked the Fox series solidly ahead of NBC's 3.7/11 average.

Compared to Friends' year-ago performance, Joey was down about 60% in both viewers and Adults 18-49 -- a fact that can not be overlooked when discussing the (comparatively minor) 25-30% decline in the 2004--2005 season's performance of NBC's The Apprentice 9PM lead-out.

Together with original episodes of CSI (30.72 million, 10.9/26) and Without A Trace (21.01 million, 6.9/17), Survivor: Palau's surprisingly strong premiere powered CBS to its most watched Thursday night since Nielsen implemented people meters in 1987 as well as its best Adults 18-49 performance since March 2001.