A few things happened last week that I think are instructive to understanding television ratings. First, because of the President's break into tv last Monday, ABC aired The Big Bang Theory after Two And A Half Men. As you see, that obviously helped TBBT, but more importantly, it keept nearly all the 18-49 audience, which is what good shows are supposed to do. Worst Week usually only keeps about 60% of the TAAHM audience, which is why it's something of a dud. Second, also because of the President, True Beauty got moved to Tuesday night and lost 40% of its average audience (it's actually more than that, as the audience has been building in recent weeks). I can think of 3 reasons why people wouldn't watch: (1) they only watch it because it's on after The Bachelor, (2) they didn't know it was airing on a different night, or (3) they watch a different show in the timeslot that True Beauty aired on Tuesday (or don't watch TV at all on Tuesdays). We have no way to know what percentage of people didn't watch for each of those reasons, but losing 40% of your audience is a pretty big deal, and would seem to indicate a kind of laissez faire attitude from the audience towards True Beauty. Third, look at the decline in ratings for The New Adventures of Old Christine and Gary Unmarried. You know, I actually thought that this was the first time that they had aired against American Idol, but that's not the case. Both aired against Idol on January 14th and did 1.9 and 2.1 18-49 ratings, respectively. Likewise, they aired against both AI and the Lost summary that went on right before the season premiere and didn't have this kind of drop-off. If these numbers are right, then I'm going to say it's because of taking two weeks off. As True Beauty showed, audiences can be fickle, and once they've had time to find something else to watch (because of several weeks of reruns), it's hard to get them back.
Also, I didn't watch Dollhouse, but I know plenty of Whedon fans, so let's talk about it. First, don't be too worried. A 2.0 18-49 rating on Friday nights is actually pretty good. Remember that a program's rating is pretty dependent on what aired before it, and Dollhouse built on Terminator by 40% 18-49 and 1 million viewers overall. But one episode isn't going to tell the whole story. What's more important is to see how much it declines next week. Every show declines in their second week, if not sooner. Lie To Me, for example, lost 3.6 million viewers from the first half to the second half of its first episode, then maintened those numbers for its second episode. Dollhouse, in contrast, showed no drop-off from the first half to the second. If loses are kept to a minimum, that may be enough to get FOX to either move it to a more high-viewership night or let it finish out the season in anticipation of a better timeslot next season.
THIS WEEK IN TV * The CW is all reruns once again this week. They need to take these weeks off to make up for starting their broadcast year a couple weeks before the other networks in the fall. * Speaking of reruns, and also of Worst Week, it's the only new show airing this Monday night on CBS. It's also the season finale. Season 3 of Rules of Engagement takes its place on March 2nd. * Tuesday's American Idol is a two-hour episode, so no Fringe after it. * Friday night, 13: Fear Is Real is finally over. It was down to a .4 18-49 rating last week, so I doubt we'll see it again. * Saturday night, ABC airs Hitch (The W at Amazon), which is in their regular rotation of movies. It last aired May 17, 2008, and did a 1.3 18-49 rating. I don't know how airing the same movie once a year makes sense unless it's The Ten Commandments or The Sound of Music, but what do I know? * Sunday is full of specials. ABC's entire primetime lineup is devoted to the Academy Awards (Barbara Walters Oscar Special, Oscar Countdown: 2009, and the 81st Annual Academy Awards). FOX airs NASCAR's Auto Club 500, and NBC has a 2-hour 100 Most Outrageous Home Videos of All Time. The CW's Sunday Night Movie continues with the James Bond theme with Tomorrow Never Dies, available from the Ultimate Collection Volume 4.
For once I am glad that people in TV news can't be Nielsen households. If they were, I'm certain this would have been one of the highest rated shows in the history of television. Now I don't have to listen to any more complaining about it.