It was a case of feast or famine on the first night back after broadcast’s long holiday hiatus, as CBS’ Thursday night comedy lineup put up big numbers, while premieres on NBC and ABC went largely ignored.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, The Big Bang Theory put on its usual steamroller performance at 8 p.m., drawing 19.2 million viewers and a 5.4 in the adults 18-49 demo, marking the show’s third highest-rated episode of the season. In so doing, the CBS sitcom obliterated NBC’s returning Community, which delivered just 3.85 million viewers and a 1.3 in the demo in head-to-head competition.
The return of prodigal showrunner Dan Harmon did little to boost Community’s Six Seasons and a Movie prospects, as the premiere was down 32 percent from last year’s opener (1.9), although it did tie time slot predecessor Parks and Recreation’s opening delivery for the 2013-14 campaign.
A second all-new installment of Community fared no better, eking out a 1.3 in the dollar demo against a fresh episode of CBS’ The Millers (2.8, up 8 percent from its most recent first-run broadcast on Dec. 12).
NBC’s Thursday night woes became even more pronounced as the night wore on, as freshman comedies Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show returned to their lowest ratings to date. The Sean Hayes vehicle delivered a 0.9 in the demo, while TMJFS slumped to a 0.8..
At 9 p.m., CBS’ Robin Williams vehicle, The Crazy Ones, delivered a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo, up one tenth of a ratings point from its most recent original broadcast. Two and a Half Men improved 16 percent with a 2.1.
While HUT levels for the final hour of prime time were up slightly (+2 percent) versus the year-ago period, most of those who were tuned into a broadcast network managed to sidestep ABC. With its 10 p.m. hit Scandal on hiatus until Feb. 27, ABC last night rolled out the first installment of its eight-part limited series The Assets. The spy drama staggered into the lineup in front of an audience of just 3.77 million viewers; moreover, its 0.7 in the demo made it the lowest-rated in-season drama premiere in the history of the Big Four.
By way of comparison, Scandal’s mid-season finale delivered 9.22 million viewers and a 3.2 rating on Dec. 12, effectively quadrupling The Assets’ demo performance.
CBS’ Elementary won the hour with a 1.9 rating, up two-tenths of a ratings point from its latest original broadcast, while NBC’s Parenthood was up a tenth with a 1.3.
Fox aired encores of Sleepy Hollow and Bones, while the CW was also in repeat mode with encores of The Vampire Diaries and Reign.
Fox gets back into the swing of things on Jan. 16, when it bows its first American Idol results show of the season; the following week marks the premiere of the network’s new Greg Kinnear drama, Rake.
The Vampire Diaries and Reign also are slated to return on Jan. 23.
All told, the broadcast deliveries were most likely eroded by ESPN’s coverage of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day estimates, the Alabama-Oklahoma scrap averaged a stellar 16.3 million viewers and a 5.2 in the demo, up nearly 60 percent from the 10.1 million viewers and 3.3 rating delivered by last year’s Louisville-Florida matchup.
Oklahoma’s 45-31 upset of the No. 3 Crimson Tide was the most-watched Sugar Bowl in a decade. The 2004 game, which served as the season’s BCS title game, was watched by 23.9 million viewers.
Incidentally, Brent Musburger did not call the Sugar Bowl for ESPN. As such, there was no reprise of this memorable performance.