Networks like nothing better than a big premiere. It gives you bragging rights for a whole day's news cycle if you have big enough numbers and can spin them convincingly. Here's the thing, though: By themselves, premiere ratings mean less than nothing in the life of a show. They mean the program's marketing was successful and that a large number of viewers were enticed to check it out, but there's no actual evidence that anyone actually likes the show until the following week. Here's a look at four high-profile series starts that have logged at least three episodes—enough to give us a better idea of how well they'll do into the future.
Longmire—A&E has the rare show that's gained ground in the coveted 18-49 demo since the premiere. The book-based, Western-themed police procedural pulled in 4.15 million total viewers and 986,000 in the demo when it premiered Sunday, June 10. This past Sunday, it actually broke 1 million viewers among 18-49-year-olds, with 1.16 million dollar demo watchers and almost no falloff among total viewers (4.10 million). The show saw some viewership declines this week (3.5 million and 868,000 in the demo, down quite a bit), with many of the absent viewers likely checking out the NBA finals game. Still, if the show can regain its standing in the demographic with no basketball to distract viewers, it's a likely bet for renewal.
Common Law—USA's new 10 p.m. Friday show saw gains from segment to segment, too, but it's a little later in the game for the cop dramedy, and the show's fluctuations over multiple segments give us a clearer sense of what its future is going to look like. It had just under 2.48 million to start on May 11, with 875,000 demo viewers. Over five segs, it's had a high of 2.51 million total and 932,000 demo viewers (Week 2), a low of 2.2 million total (Week 5) and 725,000 in the demo (Week 4), but it seems to be stabilizing just under the 800,000 viewer mark in the demographic. It ain't Burn Notice yet, but this one might have some room to grow.
Men at Work—TBS' much-ballyhooed Thursday comedy is in an odd position. It debuted on May 24 to a strong 2.65 million total viewers, 1.63 million of whom were in the all-important 18-49 demo. But it's been on a steady downhill slope since then. Its second episode saw the show's viewership fall to 2.28 million viewers, with 1.43 million in the demo. Episode 3 dropped another 10 percent to 2.05 million total and 1.27 million in the demo, and Episode 4 was down still further in total viewers to 1.87 million, 1.17 million in the demo. The downward trend continues: 1.74 million total, 1.14 in the demo as of this past week. TBS previewed a large slate of new shows at its upfront last month, but it's not looking great for this one if the declines continue. The next few weeks will tell if the show can hit bottom at a sustainable level (and demo viewers are really the only numbers that matter, and the show still has more than a million of them), or if it will pass competitors coming up the other way.
Mountain Men—History's offbeat new Thursday evening 10 p.m. unscripted series started May 31, and it's maintaining some initial traction. The first segment grabbed about 1.58 million demo viewers out of 3.90 million, and the second was in the same demo range with some falloff among total viewers, bringing the show to 3.47 million, with 1.57 million in the demo. The third dipped to 1.40 million (though total viewers were back up to 3.52 million). Those numbers have put the show in the top 25 cable broadcasts every week of its run so far.