CBS continues its early season momentum, in a big way: The network has now taken the first two weeks of the season — not only among all viewers, but among those under 50 as well (Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory are must-see TV for viewers of all ages). That’s the first time in the nearly 25 years since Nielsen began regularly tracking demo data that a network has pulled back-to-back viewer and demo wins so early in the season. Meanwhile, ABC is also doing okay in overall viewership, ranking second for the week thanks mostly to its Wednesday comedies and Dancing With the Stars; among the under-50 viewers the network says it targets, however, ABC was fourth for the week. An NFL overrun and Sunday’s animated comedies help Fox slip into second for the week in that younger demo; it also doesn’t hurt that Glee was TV’s No. 1 scripted show for the second consecutive week.
It doesn’t look it’s going to be a “recovery fall” for the Peacock. Sure, its ratings are up from last fall, but the numbers are deceptive: While up 11 percent in the 10 p.m. hour (thanks to comparisons with the flaccid Jay Leno Show), NBC is actually showing zero growth in the 8 to 10 p.m. hours. And while The Event will probably get an order for more episodes, despite declining every week since its debut, neither it nor any of the network’s other newcomers has shown signs of being a long-term player (Outlaw and Chase already seem ready to meet a final judgment). Not that other networks don’t have plenty of turkeys, too: Fox’s Lone Star and ABC’s My Generation are already history, while Running Wilde, The Whole Truth, and CW second season drama Life Unexpected are all just clinging to life.
Crunching the Numbers
CBS took the biggest risks of the fall — in scheduling, not programming (unless you consider rebooting Hawaii Five-0 to be groundbreaking). So far, the Eye’s moves are working out, making up for the fact that its new shows — like the other networks’ newbies — aren’t really popping with viewers. CBS now has Thursday’s No. 1 comedy with Big Bang Theory, while Survivor has turned the network from a Wednesday loser into a winner. Meanwhile, CSI: Miami has dramatically boosted CBS on Sundays, while CSI: NY should help anchor Fridays for at least a year or two. The smart scheduling makes up for the fact that CBS has no out-of-the-box hits; even a show that seemed a sure thing over the summer, like Hawaii Five-0, has to be considered at least mildly disappointing in early ratings. It’s far from a flop, however, outshining most of the other new shows — which is why CBS will certainly order more episodes of 5-0 and Mike & Molly, likely very soon.
Digging deeper into the Nielsen data, Fox’s Raising Hope is proving to be worthy of its name. While far from a hit (despite the network’s promos declaring it such), the freshman was the only new show to hold to its premiere-week young-adult audience in week two. Barring a shocking decline this week, Fox will almost certainly keep Hope alive. The same may be true of a show which, on the surface, seems disappointing: The J.J. Abrams–produced Undercovers. It dropped in week two below a 2 rating among adults 18 to 49, but given how much the network has invested in this pricey show — and the fact that Mercy somehow managed to stay on much longer in the same time slot — NBC seems likely to remain patient.
And while there’s been plenty of bad news for ABC this fall — like the DOA status of My Generation, a fourth place finish last week among adults 18-49 — it did get some encouraging news with last week’s debut of No Ordinary Family. While crushed by Glee and NCIS, the show did double what ABC had been doing in the 8 p.m. Tuesday slot last fall and could be a keeper, particularly if the network finds a less competitive slot for the show. It released Nielsen data showing Family was actually among the most-watched shows by families — i.e., parents and their kids — so maybe a move to the once family-friendly Thursday at 8 slot could be in order.