A preliminary take on what's working and what isn't in the new fall season
The networks' collective decision to flood the airwaves with female-centric comedies this fall is working out well: "2 Broke Girls" and "The New Girl" have enjoyed the highest ratings for new shows so far this season.
The fall's two biggest gambles, meanwhile, have had mixed success: "X Factor" has performed well without hitting "American Idol" numbers, and "Terra Nova" had a good but far from stunning debut — premiering to the same ratings as far less hyped and less expensive dramas.
Also read: Fox Orders Full Season of 'The New Girl'
Audiences seem to prefer funny women, meanwhile, to scantily-clad ones: "Charlie's Angels" has posted unremarkable numbers, while "The Playboy Club" is one of the lowest-rated new shows. It is one of three underperformers on NBC, unfortunately for the fourth-place network.
Premiere week looked like the last few seasons in several respects: Fox was the top-rated network, CBS was the most-watched and second highest rated, ABC beat out NBC for third in the ratings, and the CW was at the bottom.
But TV fates can change fast. The last show to debut as strongly as "2 Broke Girls" — the NBC comedy "Inside Schwartz," which aired in 2001 — was canceled midway into the season. And struggling shows can build their audiences through word of mouth, evolving tastes, and cast and scheduling changes.
With those caveats, here's our look at the early winners and losers — and those in-between — among the new fall shows.
CBS said before "2 Broke Girls" aired that it was its best-testing pilot ever, and the network trusted it enough to give it a plum slot on Monday night. It premiered last week after the return of "Two and a Half Men," and this Monday moved to its regular 8:30 slot just before it.
Last week's premiere scored a 7.0/16 in the prized 18-49 demographic and 19.1 million viewers, the best debut for any new show. This week, "Girls" slipped, but grew the audience for its lead-in, "How I Met Your Mother," by earning a 4.5/11 and 11.6 million total viewers.
"Men," meanwhile, premiered to its biggest audience ever last week, thanks to viewers who tuned in to see Ashton Kutcher replace Charlie Sheen. It fell 33 percent this week to a still-excellent 7.2 rating/17 share and 20 million total viewers, but is still well above last season's average of a 4.0/10 and 12.7 million viewers.
If "Men" can hold on to anything close to that number, it will continue to boost CBS' strong Monday lineup, including "Girls."
But even if "Men" falls to its old numbers or below, which could easily happen once Kutcher's newness wears off, "Girls" looks to have found a solid following of its own.
Fox's "The New Girl," has built on its lead-in, "Glee," both this week and in its premiere last week, to become the second highest-rated new show. Fox announced Wednesday that it has ordered a full season of the show.
The Zooey Deschanel sitcom scored a 4.8/12 and 10.3 million viewers last week, and in its second airing Tuesday lost just 8 percent of that rating to score a 4.4/11 and 9.3 million total viewers.
We predicted that "The New Girl" could be bigger than Fox's far more ambitious "X Factor" and "Terra Nova" — and at least in its first airings, it was.
"X Factor" has had fall's third-highest ratings among new shows, drawing a 4.4/12 its first night, a 4.3/12 its second, and 12.5 million viewers on both. It only had about half the viewers averaged by "American Idol," "X Factor" creator Simon Cowell's former show. But Fox has to appreciate its ability to hold viewers from its first episode to its second.
The fourth highest-rated debut — and the highest-rated drama so far — was ABC's "Revenge," which scored a 3.3/9 and 10 million total viewers.
The one-two punch of "The New Girl" and "X Factor" was what made Fox the highest-rated network of premiere week, when it averaged a 3.4 rating and 8.3 million total viewers. CBS had a 3.1 rating and 12.1 million total viewers.
"Terra Nova's" launch was accompanied by plenty of hype and effort — its dozen executive producers include Steven Spielberg, it was called out as an out-of-control production even before its pilot was shot, and its premiere was delayed from May because of special effects issues.
Given that backdrop, you might expect it to perform better than more traditional dramas.
But it was exactly in line with ABC's "Pan Am" and CBS's "Person of Interest." All three dramas debuted to a 3.1 rating. CBS' "Unforgettable," another drama, debuted to a 2.9 last week and slipped 14 percent in its second episode Tuesday to a 2.5/6 and 12.3 million total viewers.
NBC's "Up All Night" looked like a clear winner based on its strong debut. It had an unexpectedly high 3.7/10 and 10.9 million total viewers in its first airing Sept. 14, at a special 10 p.m. start time. The Christina Applegate/Will Arnett comedy beat its lead-in, the finale of "America's Got Talent."
But in its move to its tougher regular timeslot, Wednesdays at 8 p.m., it fell to 2.3/7 and 6 million total viewers. That should be plenty to keep it alive — and help NBC maintain a foothold as it tries to establish a Wednesday night comedy block — if it can maintain those numbers.
Another new NBC comedy, "Whitney," is blessed with a lead-in from "The Office" on Thursdays at 9:30. It will be sitting pretty if it can hold its debut 3.2/8 and 6.7 million total viewers. It had the sixth-highest debut of the season so far.
ABC's "Charlie's Angels" debuted at 2.1/6 and 8.7 million total viewers. Its ratings, if sustainable, are good enough to keep it alive. But they aren't impressive for a show that had a built-in curiosity factor thanks to the original 1970s TV series and two movies based on it.
As for the more narrowly targeted CW, all of its new shows — "Ringer," "H8R," "Hart of Dixie" and "The Secret Circle" — have earned ratings on par with those of shows already on the network. The network targets young women but hopes to expand that audience this year.
"Ringer" was a modest success, pulling in a 1.2/3 and 2.7 million total viewers in its debut. "The Secret Circle" premiere managed to hold most of the audience for "The Vampire Diaries," the network's biggest hit. "Circle" had a 1.3/4 and 3 million total viewers.
Both "Ringer" and "Circle" dipped, however, in their second week. But in its third episode, which aired Tuesday, "Ringer" was flat with last week's rating, earning a 0.8/2 and 2 million total viewers.
NBC's "Prime Suspect," "The Playboy Club," and "Free Agents" aren't off to promising starts. Neither is CBS's "A Gifted Man," which can at least blame its Friday timeslot. (We don't call these shows preliminary losers with any happiness; all of them are pretty good, with the exception of "The Playboy Club," which should take itself less seriously.)
"A Gifted Man" might be safe on another network, but will likely need to improve to survive on CBS, which has a deep bench and little tolerance for underperformers.
It does have an excuse: Nothing does well on Friday nights. But the 1.4/5 and 9.3 million total viewers for its 8 p.m. premiere were behind the numbers for the rest of CBS's Friday night lineup. It also came in third in its timeslot behind Univision's "Teresa" and Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares."
"Prime Suspect" debuted Thursday at 10 p.m. to a 1.8/5 and 6 million total viewers, which should be enough to keep it alive if it can retain its audience.
The situation looks more bleak for "Free Agents." Even after a strong lead-in from "Up All Night" at their special times on Sept. 14, it scored only a 2.1 rating — the same that the now canceled "Outlaw" had in the same 10:30 time period – and 6.3 million total viewers.
Things got worse for "Free Agents," as they did for "Up All Night," when the shows moved to their normal timeslot last week. "Free Agents" fell to a very soft 1.3/4 and 3.9 million total viewers at 8:30.
"The Playboy Club" also needs help. It fell 19 percent in its second week to a 1.3/3 and 3.9 million total viewers. It's 10 p.m. timeslot isn't great: CBS's "Hawaii 5-0" offers tough competition, and ABC's "Castle" siphons off viewers who might have been lured by "The Playboy Club" cocktail of sex and crime. But that grown-up mix also almost ensures that NBC won't air "The Playboy Club" before 10.