Eight years after Sunnydale collapsed into the Hellmouth, Sarah Michelle Gellar returned to broadcast television Tuesday night as the star of the CW’s Ringer. Unfortunately, the premiere didn’t deliver Buffy-caliber ratings.
According to Nielsen, the Sept. 13 debut of Ringer delivered 2.84 million total viewers and a 1.2 rating among the 18-49 demo, and while it built nicely on its lead-in—the Season 4 premiere of 90210 served up 1.61 million viewers and an 0.9 rating—it was a far cry from earlier CW openers.
For example, Ringer fell 20 percent shy of the Sept. 10, 2010, premiere of Nikita, which drew 3.57 million viewers and a 1.4 rating. Gellar’s new series also failed to best last season’s Hellcats premiere, which drew 2.99 million viewers and a 1.2 rating.
After averaging 1.72 million live-plus-same-day viewers (2.11 million upon application of seven days of DVR playback), Hellcats was canceled after its 22-episode run.
Originally developed for CBS, Ringer marks the CW’s first concerted bid to expand beyond its target audience of women 18-34. While the early ratings were disappointing, the network hopes to grow the show’s reach by re-airing the pilot Friday night at 8 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. (Beginning Sept. 26, that time slot will be devoted to the new Rachel Bilson vehicle, Hart of Dixie.)
According to Networked Insights research, Ringer, Hart of Dixie, and The Secret Circle are among the most anticipated new shows of the 2011-12 TV season. From May to early September, Ringer was the beneficiary of an enormous amount of positive scrutiny on Twitter and other social media platforms, as SMG fans voiced unflagging enthusiasm for the series.
At its third-season height, Buffy the Vampire Slayer averaged 5.24 million viewers on the now-defunct WB. More than half of these (2.73 million) were members of the 18-49 demo.
It’s worth noting that Ringer gave the CW its best numbers in the Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot in three years. Last night’s deliveries topped the Season 2 premiere of Life Unexpected (1.73 million on Sept. 14, 2010) by 59 percent. Life Unexpected was canceled in December.
Elsewhere on the dial, the NBC drama Parenthood returned for its third season, drawing 6.29 million viewers and a 2.2 rating, down 19 percent from its year-ago performance (2.7). The premiere dropped significantly in the second half-hour, falling from 7.83 million viewers to 5.73 million.
Lastly, ABC generated some big numbers with its two-hour special on the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes, averaging 8.41 million viewers and a 1.5 rating from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.