All Hail Shonda Rhimes

Showrunner’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal shine after long hiatus

It may be time to rename ABC “The House That Shonda Built.”

After a two-and-a-half-month hiatus, showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ twin Thursday night hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal came storming back as if they’d never left. In fact, both series posted their highest ratings since October.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Grey’s last night averaged 9.42 million viewers and a 3.1 in the adults 18-49 demo, marking a 15 percent increase when compared to its most recent original airdate (Dec. 12). Moreover, Grey’s gathered steam as the night went on, improving from a 3.0 in the demo between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to a 3.2 rating in its second half-hour.

The hits just kept coming at 10 p.m., as the return of Olivia Pope and the rest of the Beltway crisis management crew delivered 9.32 million viewers and a 3.4 in the dollar demo. Scandal’s preliminary deliveries topped its most recent new broadcast by two-tenths of a ratings point and now stands as the second highest rated show in Scandal history. (The Oct. 3 season opener drew a 3.6 in the demo.)

That kind of consistency goes a long way toward explaining why Rhimes is the straw that stirs the drink at ABC. While Grey’s no longer delivers the gaudy 25 million+ viewers it did in its Season 3, it has held up remarkably well for a broadcast show that is now in its 10th cycle. And Scandal is nothing less than a phenomenon. Not only is it the second highest-rated scripted series on network TV, it’s also the No. 1 drama series among African-American viewers.

Rhimes’ latest pilot, the legal thriller How to Get Away With Murder, is under consideration for a fall premiere on ABC.  

ABC’s 9-11 p.m. lineup absolutely scorched the competition, which included NBC’s Hollywood Game Night (1.2) and Parenthood (1.1); CBS’ Two and a Half Men (2.5), The Crazy Ones (1.9) and Elementary (1.6) and Fox’s Rake (0.8).

Fox’s deliveries are of particular concern, as American Idol tied last week’s 2.4 rating, a series low. (In head-to-head competition with NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, Idol’s Thursday night shows averaged a 3.1, 3.0 and 2.4 rating.) And in slipping under a 1.0 in its sixth episode, the Greg Kinnear drama Rake is, unequivocally, a goner.

Meanwhile, if The Voice, The Blacklist and Chicago P.D. all came back strong from their Olympic break, NBC’s Thursday night lineup remains a Superfund Site. Notching a 1.0 in the demo, Community tied a series low, while Parks and Recreation fell 15 percent to a 1.1.

While Hollywood Game Night dropped 20 percent to a 1.2 rating, the one-hour spackle show still outperformed its time slot predecessors by 50 percent. The final four weeks of the now defunct 9-10 p.m. battery comprised of Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show averaged a 0.8 in the demo.

CBS bounced back from its all-repeat Olympics schedule in fine form, as The Big Bang Theory delivered a 5.0, down just two-tenths from its Feb. 6 average, while The Millers was up a tenth and the flip-flopped pairing of Two and a Half Men and The Crazy Ones improved 32 percent and 12 percent, respectively. 

On the CW, The Vampire Diaries matched its low-water mark with a 0.9 in the 18-49 demo, while the recently renewed freshman drama Reign bottomed out with a 0.5, down a tenth from its Feb. 6 installment.

Averaging a 2.7 in the 18-49 demo Thursday night, CBS edged ABC by a two-tenths of a point. Both nets left Fox (1.6) and NBC (1.1) in the dust. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision tied NBC for fourth place on the night.