'Joey,' Donald Need More Friends

Based on its series premiere, Joey Tribbiani is missing a few viewers along with his "Friends."

An estimated 18.6 million people watched the first episode of "Joey" (search) Thursday, the spinoff of "Friends" that NBC was counting on to keep its Thursday night lineup strong, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That's lower than any original episode of Matt LeBlanc's (search) old series drew last season, including the 24.5 million people who saw the season debut.

NBC notes that "Joey" gathered the largest audience among the advertiser-friendly 18-the season yet, it seemed the number would have been higher, said Marc Berman, a television analyst for Media Week Online.

"I can't imagine they're all there (at NBC) jumping for joy," he said.

"Joey" should settle in to being "a respectable hit, but it won't be a breakout hit," he said.

The ratings compare to last season's premiere of CBS' "Two and a Half Men," (search) which drew 18.4 million viewers.

If he looked at Thursday night's numbers, Donald Trump's job security may not be that much better than the ambitious contestants he's putting on the firing line.

The debut of "The Apprentice" for its second season was seen by 14.1 million people, Nielsen said. That's the lowest number yet for the business game, down from the 20.7 million average for the first season and the 18.5 million who saw the first episode ever.

"The Apprentice" (search) was going up against the first game of the National Football League season, stiffer competition than usual on ABC. CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," was airing a rerun at the same time.

Television viewers haven't exactly jumped at the chance to see network fare ahead of the traditional start of the fall season in late September. Fox's effort to debut new series in the summer proved to be disastrous.

So many viewers still may not have shed their summer viewing habits.