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your tv ratings explained

Your TV Ratings Explained: Modern Family Returns Strong, Undercovers Underwhelms

Premiere week rolls on, with ABC's big comedies back in action. Who popped and who flopped?

Tuned In
Modern Family still has the big mo', drawing 14 million viewers and a 5.0 ratings with folks under 50 to rank as the No. 1 show of the night, by a mile. All of ABC's Wednesday comedies did nicely, with The Middle growing despite moving to a tougher 8 p.m. slot and Cougar Town snagging its best adults 18 to 49 rating since January. Also very impressive: CBS's Survivor, looking positively spritely in season 21 and holding on to all of its 18 to 49 rating (4.0) from premiere week, despite the entry of other networks into the game (including Fox's Hell's Kitchen, which returned on par).

Among new shows, The Defenders did best, taking advantage of a healthy Criminal Minds lead-in (14 million) to win its 10 p.m. time slot in viewers (12.1 million) and rank a respectable second behind the final hour of an expanded Law & Order: SVU (which also did solid numbers). ABC's new 8:30 comedy, Better With You, got sampling between Middle and Modern, slipping a tick from its Middle lead-in.

Tuned Out
The J.J. Abrams–produced Undercovers underwhelmed but didn't bomb in its first outing, averaging an okay 2.0 rating in the under-50 demo. Yes, that's less than Mercy did a year ago, but thanks to Survivor and ABC's growing comedies, the competition is much tighter in the hour. Meanwhile, did you know ABC premiered a new Jerry Bruckheimer drama called The Whole Truth last night? Probably not, as preseason tracking had this show's audience-awareness levels near zero, leading to predictable carnage: The series drew just under 5 million viewers and, more worrisome, only notched a 1.5 in the demo. That's less than half of what Cougar Town did at 9:30 and exactly half of what the canceled Eastwick did in the hour for ABC last fall (you can make your own "The Half-Truth" jokes; we're not mean like that).

Crunching the Numbers
It's proving to be a very tough week for new shows. Sure, big guns like The Event and Hawaii Five-0 have kicked off decently, but they didn't pop the way Modern Family did last year. There's also been an unusual amount of flat-out rejection by viewers, with Lone Star and The Whole Truth flatlining on arrival, and industry insiders pretty convinced that My Generation (and possibly Outsourced) might do the same tonight.

Photo: ABC/Karen Neal