A year ago this week, the CW issued a press release declaring the premiere numbers for new drama Melrose Place “solid,” even though it was pretty clear from the start that the show was dead on arrival (and even though privately, they were conceding they were actually pretty disappointed). Melrose limped along well into the spring, but died a predictable death. Now another heavily hyped new CW cheerleading series, Hellcats, has made its debut; the Nielsen numbers are in, and the network has sent out an e-mail trumpeting its premiere ratings as … “really solid.” Given Hollywood logic, if you guessed that the numbers for Hellcats came in lower than the failed Melrose, well, that’d be a really solid guess.
Per preliminary Nielsen ratings, Hellcats averaged 3 million viewers and a 1.2 rating among the key demo group of adults 18 to 49 — down almost 10 percent in the demo from what Melrose earned in its initial, failed outing. The CW is a niche network aimed at women under 35, however, so it doesn’t pay as much attention to those ratings yardsticks. Unfortunately, Hellcats — despite some surprisingly good reviews, particularly for a show that’s not designed to be critic bait — didn’t show much pep with that segment of the audience, either: It was down 20 percent from Melrose with women 18 to 34. On the bright side, Hellcats did much, much better than the show which aired in the 9 p.m. Wednesday slot last fall (anyone remember The Beautiful Life? Anyone?), nearly doubling its viewership. It also improved on the season premiere of America’s Next Top Model, something no show on the CW has ever done before (on the down side, Model had its least-watched premiere ever).
So will Hellcats live to cheer for a few more weeks? Probably. While the numbers weren’t all that great, particularly given all the CW’s promotional buildup for the show, they weren’t totally awful, either. Plus, unlike Beautiful Life or Melrose Place, Hellcats seems to have some semi-positive buzz around it. As long as the show can avoid falling off a cliff once the other broadcast networks get into the game in a few weeks, Hellcats could be purring through at least the fall.