So remember when everyone was saying the network sitcom was dead? Never mind. CBS powered through another Monday with strong performances from all of its comedies. Week two of the post-Sheen era of Two and a Half Men, while down about 35 percent versus its debut, was still a monster: 20 million people tuned in and the series earned a 7.2 rating in adults 18 to 49. But the best news for CBS was earlier in the night: How I Met Your Mother (10.5 million, 4.4 demo) demolished everything in sight with viewers under 50, while 2 Broke Girls (11.6 million, 4.5 demo) debuted in its regular time slot with numbers about 40 percent above what Rules of Engagement earned in the same slot last year. The continued curiosity about Men, plus an Emmy win and Bridesmaids exposure, helped Mike & Molly attract its biggest audience ever (14 million); it earned a 4.9 in the demo.
Then there's Terra Nova, which could just as easily have been in the "tuned out" category of this column, given how well many industry insiders figured it would perform in its debut. Still, 9 million viewers and a 3 demo rating represent substantial audience tune-in these days, and the fact that audience levels stayed steady during the two-hour debut is a good sign. The show's real test comes over the next two weeks, as viewers decide whether they liked what they saw. Meanwhile, the CW, which had a tough premiere week, had to be happy that Gossip Girl returned in decent shape: The show was up 22 percent, to a 1.1. rating, in the net's target of adults 18 to 34 versus its May season finale (though it was still down from its September 2010 season premiere).
As for CW's new Hart of Dixie, which followed at 9 p.m., it did a not-great 0.8 in adults 18-34 opposite intense competition, but matched Gossip in adults 18-49.
Dead Bunny Hopping! The Playboy Club, which fell nearly 20 percent to a 1.3 rating with viewers under 50 and just 3.9 million viewers. It can't last much longer in this time slot; the only question is whether new NBC chief Bob Greenblatt will try the show elsewhere on his schedule. He can probably be patient with The Sing-Off however; its 1.7 demo rating from 8 to 10 p.m. is weak but not disastrous, particularly given all the hype surrounding the other Monday-night shows. Speaking of hype: Whatever buzz there is about Dancing With the Stars isn't helping its ratings. Monday's episode fell to a 3.3 demo rating, the show's lowest-rated episode ever in the category (it still averaged a solid 16 million viewers overall, No. 2 for the night behind Men).
Crunching the Numbers
So last week, Fox had its best fall launch ever, winning premiere week for the first time, and yet most industry insiders were preoccupied buzzing about why The X Factor wasn't even bigger. Now comes Terra Nova, which didn't die on arrival (like The Playboy Club last week, or Lone Star last year), but also had Tinseltown prophets predicting much bigger things. And why not: When you decide to spend $15 million or more on a pilot, reshoot and tinker with said pilot several times, and then pound the existence of said pilot into the public's head for months on end, it's not unreasonable for outsiders to assume you think you've got the potential for a big hit on your hands. And while Nova is by no means a flop, it's also hard to see it turning into a dino-mighty smash hit.
Still, if the show maintains its premiere week numbers — and that's not easy; most well-hyped shows fall in week two — Fox will have perhaps found a solid addition to its schedule (although it may have to start digitally inserting sponsors' names on the backs of the dinosaurs in order to turn a profit on the show). Of course, skeptics might ask: If "solid" is all the network wanted, couldn't it have developed a good medical or legal drama to stick behind House, for a lot less money? Perhaps. But as the network's track record recently with the likes of The Good Guys and The Chicago Code demonstrates, going for cost effective doesn't always make sense at Fox, either.
It should also be noted that network dramas are struggling big-time this season. While Revenge, Pan Am, and Person of Interest all did better than Nova, they only outperformed it by a bit. What's more, all those shows debuted behind existing hits; Fox's newbie was expected (not unreasonably) to be a self-starter. Also: Pam Am producer Sony recently told the New York Times it spent $10 million shooting the pilot, so it's not as if rivals were tight on the purse strings this fall. Even established hours are limping: CBS has poured millions into rebooting Hawaii Five-0, and while the show is a success, it's nowhere near the next CSI or even Criminal Minds. Terra Nova may not have debuted to raptor-ous numbers, but in 2011, it has plenty of
company on the bummer train.