We’re a little more than week into the 2014-15 TV season, and while it’s a long way to May, some patterns are starting to emerge. One network looks to be emerging from the doldrums, a handful of new shows appear to have staying power and a formerly solid night for one broadcaster is now in shambles.
Here’s a look at the contenders and pretenders in the early going of the season.
ABC. After a rough 2013-14 in which the network finished fourth in adults 18-49 and canceled nearly 80 percent of its new shows, premiere week came as a welcome relief for ABC. Turning Thursday night over to Shonda Rhimes provided a quick fix for the black-hole 8 o’clock timeslot in “Grey’s Anatomy” and saw record highs for “Scandal” and a huge launch for “How to Get Away With Murder.” “The Goldbergs” and “Black-ish” shored up the Wednesday comedy block, and even the so-so “Forever” provided an upgrade at 10 on Tuesday (growing a bit in the 18-49 demo from its premiere the night before). The network still has some issues, but Paul Lee and Co. have to be breathing a little bit easier after week 1.
“Gotham.” The Batman-without-Batman series opened to good ratings for FOX — and then scored huge gains with three days of DVR viewing, even moving ahead of DVR behemoth “The Blacklist” in adults 18-49. Better yet, the week 2 ratings held up pretty well. Fans of comic-book adaptations are an exacting lot, and one week does not a sustained hit make (see “Agents of SHIELD’s” ratings tail-off last year). But having “Gotham” pop like it has thus far is hugely welcome news for FOX, which has problems elsewhere (see below).
“Scorpion.” CBS’ nerds-in-action drama premiered to solid ratings, but since an hour-long “Big Bang Theory” premiere served as its lead-in, it was fair to wonder whether the show would stumble in week 2. It didn’t. Monday’s (Sept. 29) episode (with a “Big Bang” repeat as lead-in) retained nearly all of the premiere audience and bodes well for the show down the line.
Viewers over 50. “Madam Secretary” is averaging 13 million-plus viewers over its first two episodes. “The Mysteries of Laura” clocked in at nearly 10 million in its time-period debut, while “Law & Order: SVU” grabbed its biggest total audience in several years. What they all have in common is that none of those shows scored better than a 2.2 among adults 18-49 in the same-day ratings. We’ve heard endlessly that the 18-49 demographic is the lifeblood of network TV, but if “Madam Secretary” and “Laura” continue to hold their audience, they’ll make a couple of very interesting test cases for the limits of that argument. “SVU’s” longevity changes the conversation around it to a degree, but it will be interesting to watch its numbers nonetheless.
FOX’s Tuesday night. “Utopia” has turned out to be a ratings dud, and deposed FOX head Kevin Reilly’s hope that it would drive some new viewers to “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” fizzled at the gate as both comedies opened well below their premieres last year. Even though they both have sizable DVR audiences, the same-day ratings are so far behind their time-period competition that it’s unlikely they’ll move out of fourth place.
Old shows in new places. Airing opposite the NFL and ABC’s Thursday lineup, “The Biggest Loser” was expected to drop some in its new home. But it’s been hovering near series-low numbers in the same-day ratings. “NCIS: Los Angeles” moved to Monday and dropped a full ratings point compared to its Tuesday debut last year.
“Agents of SHIELD” and “Sleepy Hollow.” Both shows opened big last season before tailing off (“SHIELD” moreso than “Sleepy”) as the season went on. Both shows then premiered to ratings around where they ended last season. Each picks up a substantial amount of viewership via DVRs, but even with that the numbers suggest they tilt more toward “cult favorite” than “massive hit.”