Well hellfire, save matches, f–k a duck and see what hatches: American Idol made its big Thursday debut last night and not only did it do fine, so did just about everything else on TV — including NBC’s new super-size Thursday comedy lineup. Shows we were most worried about, like Community and 30 Rock, did great. Parks and Recreation had its biggest episode ever. And almost nobody watched Outsourced! Really, things couldn’t have worked out much better even if Vulture had quietly hacked into Nielsen’s mainframe and adjusted the numbers to suit our preferences.
Even though virtually nobody involved in the decision is left to claim credit for it, outgoing NBC brass can give themselves a pat on the back for their decision to double down on the Thursday funny since, at least so far, it’s working. Even opposite Idol, and without any big stunt, the Greendale gang at Community (4.7 million viewers, 2.2 adults 18-49 rating) had its best 8 p.m. rating since October 14. Most of you stuck around to check out the new Perfect Couples (4.2 million, 2.1 demo), perhaps because you were too busy digesting all the big developments on Community and forgot to change the channel. At nine, The Office (8.3 million, 4.5 demo) had its best young-adult score since the big Jam baby episode last March, helping Parks and Recreation (6.2 million, 3.2 demo) earn its best demo rating ever and biggest overall viewership since its 2009 premiere.
While Parks did lose about a quarter of its Office lead-in, that’s a respectable drop-off from a big hit like The Office (and similar to the decline ABC’s just-renewed Cougar Town notches each week behind Modern Family). 30 Rock (5.3 million, 2.7 demo), meanwhile, was up nearly 30 percent versus its most recent 8:30 p.m. episode, proving that half-hour comedies can work just fine at 10 p.m. (although Jersey Shore has been making that case for a year now). The only loser in the NBC comedy lineup remains Outsourced (4 million, 1.8 demo), which pretty much collapsed without the safety net of a big Office lead-in.
As happy as NBC’s skeleton crew is today, we’d argue the folks at Fox will be feeling even better. Moving a ten-year-old Idol to Thursdays against lots of entrenched competition was a bit of a gamble, particularly in the first Simon-free season. And yet the show is off to a damn-good start: A one-hour audition hour brought in 22.9 million viewers, off just 9 percent from the first hour of last winter’s night-two premiere (which was 90 minutes). In the under-50 demo, Idol averaged a 7.8 rating, a 15 percent decline versus last year. What’s most important to Fox’s bottom line, however, is that Idol completely dominated its hour, out-rating second-place CBS by 129 percent. That margin will surely shrink once Thursday becomes all about Ryan Seacrest teasing out five minutes of results over 60 painfully padded minutes. That said, odds are that Idol will be big enough to continue to challenge CBS for the lead on the night.
And yet, continuing with today’s theme of “everybody wins!” the Eye took the Idol punch in stride Thursday. Big Bang Theory (13.6 million, 4.2 demo) was down a scant 3 percent in viewership versus last week; its demo score was almost identical to the show’s overall average this season. $#*! My Dad Says (10.3 million, 2.7) was down a bit more and had its lowest-ever demo score. Also taking a hit: ABC’s Winter Wipeout (8.3 million, 2.6 demo), which saw its young-adult audience decline by 28 percent. Still, considering how poorly ABC was doing in the time slot this fall, the network is still up substantially (and it’s beating NBC’s 8-9 p.m. comedies, too). The network’s Shonda Rhimes dramas were in repeats.