So-So Start for ABC’s ‘Scandal’

Shonda Rhimes drama premieres to a 2.0 rating

ABC’s heavily promoted new political drama, Scandal, bowed Thursday night to unspectacular numbers, delivering 7.33 million viewers and a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo.

The Shonda Rhimes project stands as ABC’s lowest-rated drama launch of the 2011-12 season, trailing recent series premieres Missing (10.6 million viewers/2.1 rating), GCB (7.56 million viewers/2.2 rating) and The River (7.59 million viewers/2.4 rating).

While 10 p.m. has become a veritable dead zone, it’s worth noting that demo deliveries were down 5 percent across the board Thursday night, which marked the eve of two tremendously solemn religious holidays (Good Friday and Passover).

Scandal retained 89 percent of its Grey’s Anatomy lead-in and easily crushed NBC’s Awake, which fell to a series low 2.56 million viewers and a 0.9 in the demo. A new installment of The Mentalist drew 12.6 million viewers and a 2.4 rating, securing the time slot for CBS.

Earlier in the night, Missing took another tumble, scaring up a mere 7.24 million viewers and a 1.5 rating in the dollar demo. Missing has the misfortune of competing against the CBS comedy juggernaut The Big Bang Theory (13.3 million/4.4) and Fox’s American Idol (14.3 million/3.9).

Missing did manage to beat out the two NBC comedies it faced in the first hour of prime time. Community sagged to 3 million viewers and a 1.3 rating at the top of the hour, while lead-out 30 Rock posted an anemic 2.79 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo.

Season to date, ABC’s biggest debut came courtesy of the Sunday night curiosity Once Upon a Time. The fractured fairy tale premiered Oct. 23 to 12.9 million viewers and a 4.0 rating.

While ABC has yet to announce its renewals for 2012-13, Once Upon a Time is certain to return for a second tour. Other safe bets are veteran series Modern Family, The Middle and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as newcomers Revenge and Suburgatory.

To date, ABC has canceled four new series: Charlie’s Angels, Man Up!, Pan Am and Work It. The latter strip was yanked after just two episodes. The River is also not expected to win a reprieve, drawing 3.99 million total viewers and a 1.4 rating in its March 20 finale.

Through the first 28 weeks of the broadcast season, Fox leads the pack with a 3.2 in the demo, edging CBS (3.1). Fox’s ratings are down 8 percent from a year ago, while CBS is up 3 percent.

NBC’s Super Bowl deliveries are the leading factor in its hold on third place; with an average 2.6 in the demo, the Peacock is up 8 percent versus 2010-11. Flat with a 2.4 rating, ABC remains mired in fourth place.