After tinkering with year-round launch schedules and other experiments the last few years, networks are back to rolling out most of their shows all at once.
The result? One of the most competitive fall launches in years, with just about every new and returning show — save for the few that debut this week, like ABC’s “No Ordinary Family” — going up against its real competition from the start.
Sure, it’s only one week of ratings — but what a week it was.
So first, five ratings winners — and five losers — among the crop of new shows. And below that, the five things we learned about the new fall season:
WHAT WE'VE LEARNED…
1. A LOT OF SHOWS ARE GETTING OLD ALL AT ONCE
With fall launches occurring on a more staggered schedule in recent years, shows benefitted by competing against repeats. But with everyone jumping in all at once last week, a lot of series weren’t able to meet the benchmarks they set for themselves in softer, more forgiving falls.
Fox’s “Fringe,” which posted a 2.1 rating/6 share in the all-important adults 18-49 demo, is a prime example. Though the paranormal-themed series was up 5 percent over its May season-two finale, it fell a full 30 percent from its September 2009 season-two debut — which was seven days before premiere week.
It wasn't the only one. Ratings spin aside, a lot veteran series — mostly in the hourlong realm — experienced steep year-to-year drops. This list includes such heavy hitters as “House” (down 21 percent), “Grey’s Anatomy,” (21 percent), “Private Practice” (28 percent), “NCIS” (19 percent), “CSI” (17 percent) and “The Mentalist” (8 percent).
Sure, sophomores “Glee” and “Modern Family” stepped up to assume gold-card status, spiking 57 percent and 19 percent, respectively. But with overall premiere-week ratings collectively down about 5 percent on the broadcast networks, there seems to be more old blood floating around right now than new.
2. CBS COULD BE IN FOR A HELLAVU SEASON
Just about everything the Eye tried worked.
Example: Want to move a hit Chuck Lorre Monday night series to the ultra-competitive Thursday night schedule and replace it … with another Lorre series? Starring obese actors? Done.
Taking the Monday 9:30 p.m. slot once occupied by the top-rated comedy on television, “Big Bang Theory,” the Lorre-created “Mike and Molly” scored a 3.9/10 demo rating, dropping only 17 percent from “Big Bang’s” 2009 debut. Moving over to Thursday night at 8 p.m., meanwhile, “Big Bang” didn’t lose any audience share, holding flat with that same 2009 debut with a 4.8/15 in the key demo.
At 8:30 on Thursday, new William Shatner comedy “$#*! My Dad Says” posted a 3.9/12 — a 19 percent drop from its “Big Bang” lead-in, but strong enough to win its time period on its first night out.
Meanwhile, the series reboot of “Hawaii Five-0” didn’t quite live up to the massive hype — but then again, CBS programmers aren't going to have to find yet another new series for oft-canceled star Alex O'Loughlin, either. "Five-0" won its time period, beating out the debut of NBC’s “Chase” and ABC sophomore “Castle" with a 3.8/10 demo score and a nearly 14-million viewer average.
On Wednesday night at 10, CBS’ new Jim Belushi legal drama “The Defenders” scored a 2.9/10, trouncing the debut of ABC’s own justice-themed Rob Morrow hourlong, “The Whole Truth” (1.6/5).
And on Friday, new Tom Selleck cop show “Blue Bloods” won the 10 p.m. hour with a 2.2/7 — and improved on the 1.8/7 that “Numbers” generated in the slot last year.
3. FOX IS SURE LUCKY 'GLEE'S' AROUND
Scoring its best adult demo ratings ever (5.6/16), “Glee” was the No. 1 non-reality show on television last week.
But the only thing Fox programmers are singing right now is the blues.
New-series-wise, “Raising Hope,” the new Tuesday-night comedy from the trailer-park minded Gregory Thomas Garcia (“My Name Is Earl”) proved to be Fox’s best ratings hope with a 3.1/8 demo score — but it lost nearly 44 percent of its “Glee” lead-in at 9 p.m.
And at 9:30, “Running Wilde” — the new half-hour comedy from Mitchell Hurwitz and Will Arnett — proved to be just as powerful, ratings-wise, as its critically-prolonged forebear, “Arrested Development,” dropping nearly a quarter of the “Raising Hope” lead-in.
Most alarming, though, was the cratering of the much-hyped “Lone Star,” which was absolutely demolished by a season-premiere of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” as well as series bows of “Mike and Molly” and “The Event.”
4. NBC MIGHT NOT LOSE ITS SHIRT ON THURSDAY NIGHT, AFTER ALL
It didn’t seem like good news for NBC when CBS announced last spring that it would build a Thursday night comedy block around powerhouse “Big Bang” in the 8 o’clock hour.
In its efforts to recapture its Must See Thursday-night comedy dominance, NBC has been vulnerable from 8-9 p.m. since “Friends” left the air. And while momentum was developed last season with “Community” and “Parks and Rec,” the word “nurturing” comes to mind — as do images of daisies being crushed by the No. 1 comedy on television.
But if Thursday night was any indicator, the multi-cam “Big Bang” and the whimsical “Community” are two very different types of shows, with very different audiences — and both appear poised to do OK aside one another.
While “Big Bang” stayed flat with its 2009 debut, “Community” averaged 5 million viewers and a 2.2/7 demo score, up 10 percent from its season finale in May. Meanwhile, debuting in its new 8:30 slot, “30 Rock” finished well behind the launch of “$#*! My Dad Says” with a 2.6/8, but built 28 percent on “Community’s” lead-in.
Also boding well for NBC: the debut of “Outsourced” at 9:30 on Thursday averaged 7.4 million viewers and a 3.5/9, losing only 8 percent of “The Office’s” lead-in.
5. ABC REALLY NEEDS A SUPERHERO
Last season, the Alphabet Network parlayed a faux-documentary-style comedy, “Modern Family,” into one of the biggest hits on television. Plying the documentary touch to a youthful drama, “My Generation,” yielded an opposite reaction, however — with the rookie series coming very close to losing to the CW’s “Vampire Diaries” with a 1.6/5 Thursday at 8 p.m.
That’s a bad premiere number — but in only gets worse.
On Wednesday night at 10 p.m., new legal drama “The Whole Truth” (1.5/4) was no match for a new CBS lawyer show featuring a former ABC sitcom star (Belushi).
The only bright spot — and you have to kind of squint to see it — was on Tuesday night, with new Michael Imperioli cop drama “Detroit 1-8-7” not getting necessarily slaughtered, but not lighting the world on fire, either, losing 8 percent of the audience begot last year by the premiere of the since-canceled “Forgotten.”
A last hope: ABC's rookie-series fortunes could turn around this week with the premiere of new Michael Chiklis hourlong superhero-family dramedy, "No Ordinary Family."