The Law & Order brand, as creator Dick Wolf is so fond of calling it, still has a little juice left in it: Wednesday's debut of L&O: Los Angeles did quite nicely, bringing in 10.5 million viewers and averaging a 3.1 rating with viewers under 50. That was enough to dominate the 10 p.m. slot, give NBC its biggest show of the week so far, and improve the network's time slot average by 63 percent versus last season. Elsewhere, ABC's comedy lineup continues to do well, though all four shows took a hit of 10 percent or more (newbie Better With You dropped most, 16 percent). CBS's Survivor was also down 15 percent but still won the 8 p.m. hour, while Criminal Minds did well at 9 p.m. Fox's Hell's Kitchen did just fine, holding steady at a 2.9 in the younger demo. And the CW's America's Next Top Model had its biggest tune-in of the season, with just under 3 million watching; that helped Hellcats earn its best women 18 to 34 number since its debut (though viewing levels in the broader 18 to 49 demo continue to slip).
Post-premiere-week declines for new shows are typical, but some get hit harder than others. NBC's J.J. Abrams–produced Undercovers, for example, took a body blow: It lost about one-quarter of its only-okay debut number and fell to a 1.6 rating with viewers 18 to 49. This instantly puts the series on Cancellation Watch, where it joins another struggling Wednesday freshman from a big-shot producer: ABC drama The Whole Truth. Jerry Bruckheimer's legal hour fell a more modest 13 percent, but its 1.3 rating at 10 p.m. likely won't be tolerated for long. Finally, CBS is probably a tad disappointed in the performance of The Defenders, but only a tad: Yes, the show did drop 14 percent among viewers under 50, to a 2.5 rating. But its overall audience of 10.4 million was within spitting distance of NBC's 10 p.m. leader, Law & Order: L.A..
Crunching the Numbers
It's getting a little ugly out there for the networks, with a number of new shows already performing at really awful levels. Lone Star has already been dumped, and it wouldn't be a shocker if two or three more shows disappear or change time slots soon (including the aforementioned Undercovers and Truth). A variable in network decision-making this year might be DVR data: Nearly 40 percent of U.S. TV homes now use a digital recording, and Nielsen data on that viewership doesn't come out until a little more than two weeks after a show airs. Networks have to decide if they think they'll get a big enough DVR bump to keep a show on the air, perhaps praying that viewers who watch certain shows on a time-shifted basis will instead decide to make the new series a same-day favorite.