When casting around for a single word to characterize the new TV season, one could do a lot worse than the millennial interjection “meh.” But for a pair of comedies and a few dramas, the fall schedule thus far has been decidedly underwhelming.
Thursday night’s premiere lineup was no exception. In the highly competitive 8 p.m. time slot, a by-the-numbers Charlie’s Angels reboot on ABC delivered 8.76 million viewers and a 2.1 rating and 6 share in the 18-49 demo.
Things began to look up a bit at 9 p.m., as CBS’ Person of Interest debuted to 13.3 million viewers and a 3.1/8 in the demo. At 9:30 p.m., NBC’s new comedy Whitney enjoyed solid sampling from the target demo, notching a 3.3 rating/9 share, although overall deliveries were muted (6.84 million).
Whitney retained 89 percent of its lead-in—the first episode of The Office without Steve Carell averaged 7.64 million viewers—and while the show enjoyed a respectable maiden voyage, it fell shy of the year-ago performance in the time slot. On Sept. 23, 2010, the much-reviled Outsourced drew 7.44 million viewers and a 3.6/9 demo.
Leading out of Whitney at 10 p.m., Prime Suspect drew 6.05 million viewers and a 1.8/5 demo, making it NBC’s lowest-rated series premiere on a fall Thursday. That said, the demo performance of the Maria Bello cop drama actually improved 29 percent versus the 1.4/4 notched by year-ago occupant The Apprentice.
The night’s biggest winner was CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, which returned for its fifth season with an average draw of 14.6 million viewers and a 5 rating/15 share. In head-to-head competition, the second two-hour installment of Fox’s The X Factor delivered 12.5 million viewers and a 4.3/12 in the demo, on par with the show’s opening night numbers.
Of particular interest in the Thursday 8 p.m. slot is NBC’s Community, which once again appears far too much of a cult favorite to justify its anchor status. The Greendale gang drew just 3.93 million viewers and a 1.7/5, down 23 percent from last season’s premiere.
The tepid lead-in did Parks and Recreation no favors; Amy Poehler’s ensemble delivered 4.11 million viewers and scored a 2.1/6 in the demo, down 23 percent from a year ago.
At the CW, the season’s second episode of The Vampire Diaries dropped 19 percent to 2.52 million viewers and a 1.2 rating and 3 share in the 18-49 demo, while freshman lead-out The Secret Circle fell 31 percent to 2.12 million viewers and a 0.9/2.
In this, the first official week of the 2011-12 campaign, only a handful of new series look like they might become breakout hits. On Monday night, CBS’ Two Broke Girls drew 19.4 million viewers and a 7.1/16 in the demo, making it the runaway fave of the young season. CBS also put up big numbers on Tuesday with Unforgettable (14.1 million, 2.9/8), while Fox hypnotized 10.3 million viewers with the Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl (4.8/12).
The X Factor was certainly no slouch, but comparisons to American Idol and a hefty CPM had buyers anticipating at least a 5.0 rating in the demo. The first four hours of Simon Cowell’s new show underdelivered slightly, with an average 4.4 rating.
Also promising is ABC’s Revenge. Whether it’s tastier when served cold remains to be seen, but Revenge enjoyed a warm enough reception, averaging 10 million viewers and a 3.3/9 in its Thursday night debut.
Early duds include: NBC’s The Playboy Club (5.02 million viewers, 1.6/4) and Free Agents (3.87 million, 1.3/4), and the CW’s H8R (1.03 million, 0.4/1 in episode two).
All ratings are based on Nielsen final live-plus-same-day viewing data.