ABC Wins Hump Day Comedy Showdown

Network earns some chuckles in a night dominated by presidential debate

Viewers didn’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon for ABC’s The Neighbors, as the absurdist aliens-among-us comedy was given the cold shoulder in its time-period premiere.

After getting a huge rocket boost from a one-off Modern Family lead-in last week, The Neighbors last night came crashing to earth. Per Nielsenlive-plus-same-day data, Episode 2 delivered 6.32 million viewers and a 1.9 in the 18-49 demo, down from its premiere deliveries of 9.22 million viewers and a 3.2 rating.

In a week-to-week comparison The Neighbors lost 41 percent of the demo. 

There is no overstating the value of the post-Modern Family 9:30 p.m. time slot. When the Dunphy/Pritchett clan returned on Sept. 26, 14.4 million viewers tuned in and ABC notched a 5.5 rating. Given that kind of boost, The Neighbors was certain to land inflated premiere numbers. 

Now that it’s been shifted to 8:30 p.m., the show has a much more modest driver in the veteran family comedy The Middle. Patricia Heaton and her daffy brood bowed to 7.72 million viewers and a 2.2 in the dollar demo, down 24 percent from their prior-week rating.

If socks were in no danger of being forcibly knocked off by ABC’s deliveries, the two comedies more than held their own against NBC’s chuckle hour. Animal Practice devolved by one-tenth of a ratings point to a 1.3 in the demo, while Jimmy Fallon’s Guys With Kids was flat with a 1.6.

Across the board, the new network comedies are a gimpy bunch. Taking into account all eight most recent broadcasts, NBC’s Tuesday night sitcom Go On and CBS’s Monday night effort Partners are the only new comedies to do better than a 2.0 in the demo. (Both eked out a 2.1.)

The three lowest-rated new comedies: Fox’s Tuesday night series Ben and Kate (1.6) and the Animal Practice/Guys With Kids battery.

Fox’s The X Factor took top honors as the top-rated program on the dial, drawing a 3.5, up one-tenth of a point versus last week’s two-hour edition. And while the older-skewing Survivor slipped a notch to a 3.0 rating, the CBS franchise was the night’s biggest reach vehicle, averaging 10.4 million total viewers.

The Big Four’s 9 p.m.-11 p.m. hours were preempted by the first presidential debate. Nielsen has ABC winning on reach (11.3 million viewers), while NBC put up the highest rating among the core news demo (4.3).

While President Obama and Mitt Romney traded blows in Colorado, the CW’s Supernatural ran unopposed at 9 p.m. The season premiere of the vamp drama scared up 1.85 million viewers and posted a 0.7 in the target demo (adults 18-34), flat versus its year-ago debut.

Given the significant uptick in DVR usage, it’s worth noting that most of the early deliveries for 2012-13 are directional at best. Until Nielsen processes the first batch of C3 ratings, it is more or less impossible to determine if the new shows are hitting their marks.