Premiere week begins! Which Monday-night shows were hits, and which ones ... weren't?
Tuned In: Dancing With the Stars: Tabloid Edition had a huge night, as Bristol Palin and The Situation helped the ABC franchise score the biggest audience of any show Monday with over 21 million viewers — up nearly 20 percent from last fall. NBC and CBS also got great sampling for their big fall guns, with The Event (11.1 million) and Hawaii Five-0 (13.8 million) both getting checked out (but falling a bit short of preseason hype). New comedy Mike & Molly (12.2 million) also carried some weight, while barely promoted Jerry Bruckheimer drama Chase (7.9 million) came in right in line with modest expectations.
Tuned Out: Lone Star, the best-reviewed show of the fall, debuted colder than a well-digger's ass, as they might say in Texas: The show was seen by just over 4 million viewers, fewer than tune in to some top-tier shows on USA, History, and MTV. Worse, its 1.3 demo rating was less than half of what the fading 24 was averaging in the same 9 p.m. slot last spring. It didn't help that House finished about 20 percent below last year's open (though in line with how the show was averaging last spring, and still the best-rated drama of the night among adults under 50.)
Crunching the Numbers: While NBC can be relieved that viewers actually sampled The Event, the show's 3.7 ratings with adults 18 to 49 actually came in a bit below internal projections, which had the show averaging a 4.0 in the demo, per industry insiders. And while Event did grow at the half-hour — a sign viewers weren't bailing, despite the complicated plot of the premiere — the show's biggest test will come in the weeks ahead, as viewers decide whether to stick around to get answers to the show's many questions. Meanwhile, CBS had to be hoping for a little more from H50, given the relentless marketing and surprisingly strong reviews for the reboot. The show's 3.8 demo was actually below the fading CSI: Miami's debut number last fall, when all expectations were the new series would easily improve the time slot. H50 was hurt a bit by the fact that Mike & Molly at 9:30 didn't score as well as Big Bang Theory last year. The good news for CBS is that H50 could easily grow as the season goes on, and should have no problem holding on to first place in the time slot.
By contrast, there doesn't appear to be much hope for Lone Star: The nation that flocked to Grown-Ups this summer and kept According to Jim on the air forever once again told critics to keep their opinions to themselves. Fox might be patient, given that its hopes for the fall are always a bit modest, but with affiliates no doubt worried about Lone Star providing zero lead-in to their 10 p.m. newscasts, Fox will likely have to make a change soon, unless Lone Star miraculously upticks next week once the DWTS and Event hype die down.
One final word of caution: We live in a world where the machines — i.e., DVRs — now rule. Many of these numbers will grow in coming weeks as Nielsen calculates how many folks caught up on Lone Star and H50 later in the week. Indeed, CBS Monday became the first network to issue DVR ratings projections with its Nielsen report, predicting that H50 would add nearly 2 million viewers to its total once so-called "live plus seven" ratings were in. It's doubtful, however, that even DVR data will be enough to turn around Lone Star.