On Friday, NBC chief Bob Greenblatt candidly conceded the network had experienced a “really bad fall.” After last night’s premiere ratings for The Firm, the Peacock may need to brace itself for a really bad winter, too. NBC’s adaptation of the John Grisham novel/Tom Cruise movie totally Lone Star’d in its first at-bat, which means pretty much nobody NBC’s advertisers care about watched. Among viewers under 50, a special two-hour Sunday preview of The Firm averaged a flaccid 1.4 rating, which appears to be the lowest Nielsen premiere rating ever for an NBC drama during the regular season. (Lone Star, by the way, started out with a 1.3). The Firm also attracted about half as many under-50 viewers as last year’s Sunday debut The Cape.
In fairness, NBC didn’t put a lot of off-network promotional muscle behind the show. And The Firm did do a bit better with older viewers, attracting an overall audience of just over 6 million viewers and beating ABC’s Pan Am at 10 p.m. But unless NBC is looking to turn itself into the CBS of ten years ago, the ratings for The Firm are just plain awful and raise the question of whether or not the network should even go ahead with plans to air the show on Thursdays. Burning off the remaining episodes on Fridays and shifting Grimm to 10 p.m. Thursdays might actually be a better play. Meanwhile, one other ratings note: ABC’s Once Upon a Time seems to have benefited from the network’s holiday marketing push of the show, which included a marathon of the series last week. The series averaged a 3.7 demo rating Sunday, surging 28 percent from its last original episode in December. Jiminy Cricket!