ABC's "FlashForward" got off to a fast start Thursday, while "CSI" is showing its age and critically beloved newcomer "Community" took a big hit from intense competition.
Fox also suffered from facing a night of premieres, with "Fringe" dropping notably from its premiere last week (though "Bones" fell just 10 percent at 8 p.m., and the network's still doing better than last year) And good news for the CW: "Vampire Diaries" didn't miss a beat, and actually added some older viewers despite the onslaught of premiere Thursday newcomers.
Let's go to the (fast national Nielsen) videotape:
-- Lots of marketing and some good reviews paid off again for ABC. A night after successfully sampling its new sitcoms, the network brought a nice audience to "Flash Forward" (4.1/12 in adults 18-49, 12.4 million viewers). That's up sharply from last year's "Ugly Betty" debut (3.3/9), and was good enough to rank first in the 8 p.m. timeslot.
"FF" was the best drama premiere for any network in the 8 p.m. hour since January 2008. It gave ABC its best perfomance in the 8 p.m. Thursday slot since January 2008 as well. And it's the first time in five years -- going back to the "Friends" era -- that any regularly scheduled scripted series has beat "Survivor" in adults 18-49.
Holding on to these viewers will be key, but so far, so good. ABC won Thursday in viewers and all key demos for the second consecutive year.
ABC's "Grey's Antaomy" (6.6/17, 14.7 million) remains very healthy. Its premiere was down 11 percent from last year, but that's natural erosion for an aging show. The Alphabet hype machine (plus new baby pictures on the cover of People and sex tapes on Gawker) all combined to get viewers buzzing about the "GA" team.
-- Everyone expected "CSI" to take some incoming this year. But the show's season premiere (4.0/10, 15.7 million) was down 40 percent from last season's launch.
CBS points out that last year's "CSI" season premiere didn't take place until three weeks into the season and featured the resolution of a major cliffhanger. True: But this year's premiere had a cool "Matrix"-style slow-motion open!
In any case, the real mystery is whether "CSI" will stabilize at this number, or grow audience next week once the "GA" hype over dying stars and funerals and ghosts dies down.
At 10 p.m., "The Mentalist" (3.4/9, 14.3 million) was down three percent from its series premiere on a Tuesday last year, but up over what CBS did Thursdays at 10 p.m. last year with "Eleventh Hour."
The night started on a good note for the Eye, with "Survivor" (3.7/11) actually improving its demo score over last week. Evil Russell is no doubt behind the good numbers.
-- NBC's comedy Thursday wasn't funny enough. After weak starts last week, "SNL Weekend Update" (1.8/5) and "Parks and Recreation" (1.8/5) dropped 10 percent and 14 percent vs. last week.
At 9 p.m., "The Office" (3.8/10) dropped a respectable 7 percent, but "Community" (2.8/7) plunged 26 percent. We'll say it: Sigh.
The Jay Leno/Future of TV Watch (TM) Brought to You By Pepsi Max: 1.7/5, 5 million viewers. Lowest Leno to-date.
--Fox started off on a not-bad foot at 8 p.m., with "Bones" (2.7/8) down about 10 percent from last week vs. hurricane-level competion from "Flash Forward." ABC's "GA" tsunami tore a hole into "Fringe" (2.3/6), which fell to fourth in the hour.
--CW's "Vampire Diaries" (1.8/6 in adults 18-34) held its audience from last week despite the entry of ABC into the game. That's a great sign. The show even inched up in adults 18-49 and total viewers (maybe it was the mention on NBC's "SNL Weekend Update Thursday").