Midseason Mucker: ‘¡Rob!’ Sizzles, ‘The Finder’ Fizzles

Premiere ratings misleading in wake of 'Idol' return

Viewers largely turned their noses up at this week’s menu of midseason premieres, although the overnights for the new CBS comedy ¡Rob! were promising.

According to Nielsen preliminary data, the Rob Schneider-Cheech Marin sitcom averaged 13.5 million total viewers and a 4.1 rating among adults 18-49, making it CBS’s highest-rated new series since 2 Broke Girls premiered to a 7.1 Sept. 19.

In the Thursday 8:30 pm slot, ¡Rob! held onto 85 percent of its Big Bang Theory lead-in (15.9 million viewers), although it lost 21 percent of the demo. Big Bang’s 5.2 rating marked a 13 percent improvement from its most recent original airdate, in late December.

While the ¡Rob! premiere put up promising numbers, the landscape is going to change in a very significant way. Next week marks the 11th season premiere of Fox’s American Idol juggernaut; the one-hour Thursday installment will air directly opposite CBS’s comedy block.

Season 10 of Idol bowed Wednesday, Jan. 19, to 26.2 million viewers and a 9.7 rating in the demo. The following night’s auditions delivered 22.9 million viewers and a 7.8.

At 9 p.m., Fox premiered its Bones spin-off, The Finder, to little fanfare. The pilot finished fourth in the time slot with 5.45 million viewers and a 1.7 rating, and while that proved to be a particularly weak debut, The Finder undoubtedly will benefit from its Idol lead-in (Jan. 19).

After a special Sunday night premiere in which it drew 6.32 million viewers and a 1.4 rating, NBC’s The Firm collapsed into its Thursday, 10 p.m. time slot. According to the preliminary data, The Firm dropped 29 percent to 4.24 million viewers and a dismal 1.0 in the demo. That’s on par with what former occupant Prime Suspect delivered in its most recent episode (4.44 million and a 1.0 rating on Dec. 22).

NBC recorded stronger sampling on Wednesday night (Jan. 11), as the comedy Are You There, Chelsea? bowed to 6.18 million total viewers and a 2.3 rating. Those numbers were similar to what previous occupant Free Agents served up in its Sept. 14 opener (6.12 million, 2.1 rating). Free Agents was canceled after the fourth episode plummeted to a 1.0 in the demo.

Chelsea debuted out of freshman comedy Whitney, which had its inaugural run in its new 8 p.m. Wednesday time slot. After being off the air for more than a month, Whitney delivered 5.79 million viewers, up 42 percent from 4.08 million on Dec. 8, and a 2.0 (up 5 percent).

Of course, the WhitneyChelsea block faces the same threat as ¡Rob! et al., as Idol promises to suck out all the oxygen in the room when it returns with its two-hour season opener (Jan. 18).

Lastly, ABC’s much-reviled cross-dressing caper Work It shuffled another step closer to oblivion on Tuesday night. The second installment dropped 25 percent from the premiere, averaging 4.9 million viewers and a 1.5 rating.

Work It squandered 29 percent of its Last Man Standing lead-in.

Through 16 weeks of the 2011-12 broadcast season, CBS holds first place with an average draw of 12.2 million viewers and a 3.2 rating—an increase of 7 percent year over year. Fox is up 9 percent (3.0), ABC (-1 percent) and NBC (-9 percent) are tied at 2.5, and Univision is down 1 percent to 1.5. Bringing up the rear, The CW is averaging a 0.8 rating in the 18-49 set, down 22 percent from the prior-year period.