I'm back with another of my extensive looks at the cable TV landscape! I'm covering 31 shows on 14 networks this time, but this is still far from a complete look at cable originals, so let me know if you have a favorite you'd like on this list!
My monthly disclaimer: I'll note that I mostly traffic in adults 18-49 ratings below. (That's always what I mean by "demo.") However, these should be taken with some grain of salt. I use A18-49 ratings because of availability and because they're a reasonable way of making comparisons across networks, but be advised that it is not necessarily the be-all-end-all number it is on broadcast. Not all of these networks target that demographic specifically. Here we go!
The Walking Dead (AMC): After starting out with a couple weeks in the upper-3's, season two of The Walking Dead eventually settled down in the low-3's and built back to a 3.5 for the finale. The first half of season two overall averaged a whooping 3.41 demo, a number that exceeds all but a handful of broadcast dramas. It was also up by 29% from the short season one average. The after-show Talking Dead, which has moved to midnight since the debut of Hell on Wheels, has continued to score 0.5 or 0.6 demo ratings.
Hell on Wheels (AMC): The first four episodes of AMC's new western Hell on Wheels have averaged a 1.45 demo, with a trajectory of 1.9 -> 1.5 -> 1.2 -> 1.2. Stabilization in week four was nice, but it's still taking a huge dip from The Walking Dead (more than 60%), and we still don't know exactly how it'll do without the Walking Dead lead-in. We should get a good sense of that tomorrow when the cable ratings come in. For whatever it's worth, even 1.2 demo remains significantly higher than any original on AMC not named The Walking Dead. (Their next-biggest show, Breaking Bad, averaged a 0.81 demo last season.)
Reed Between the Lines (BET): Through eighteen episodes, BET's Reed Between the Lines has averaged a 0.60 demo. That's still inflated by the early big results after the BET Awards; recent Tuesday episodes have pulled more like a 0.3 or 0.4.
Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): This fall's run of Tosh.0 ended with a 1.78 demo average in nine episode. That's a rock-solid average and down just 5% from the ten-episode run in fall 2010. It returns on January 31.
South Park (Comedy Central): Comedy Central's fall run of iconic animated show South Park also ended a couple weeks ago. It posted a 1.52 average, down by 9% from last fall's run, and it returns in March. The show recently got renewed for three more seasons (and it still had two more to go even before that), so there's no need to be concerned about this show's long term future.
Monday Night Football (ESPN): Monday Night Football is relatively used to being the top 18-49 dog on Monday on either broadcast or cable, but the enormous season from CBS' Two and a Half Men-led block on Monday has prevented that from happening on several occasions. As I said last month, the matchups often make the rating; in thirteen games thus far, ratings have ranged from 4.0 (Baltimore/Jacksonville) all the way up to 7.2 (the Redskins and those Nielsen-happy Cowboys). Most of the other games have fallen in the mid-4's to mid-5's. Even if it's not always the night's top program, it's still a huge part of the Monday competitive picture. The only really notable result last month was the big 6.9 demo for the Bears/Eagles matchup on November 7.
American Horror Story: It may be wild creatively, but American Horror Story is actually one of cable's most consistent hits in the ratings. The show dropped just two tenths on Thanksgiving Eve (to a 1.6 demo), one of the smallest percentage drops (11%) of any show to air an original on the night. It's been somewhere from 1.6 to 1.8 in each of its last six airings and is now averaging a rock-solid 1.61 demo overall. That means it's still comfortably FX's second-biggest show.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Though Sunny has taken a bit of a hit in recent weeks (the arrival of Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network probably doesn't help), it perked back up to a 1.0 demo last week and is averaging a 1.05 demo through eleven episodes this season. That's up 17% on the first eleven of last season.
The League: This Sunny lead-out seems to follow Sunny whereever it goes. Like the other Thursday comedy, it dropped big when football first burst onto the scene, as low as a 0.5 demo on November 10. It's risen in the last couple weeks and is averaging a 0.69 demo through eight episodes, up 14% from last year's first eight episodes.
Hung: The ratings weakness has continued in the last month for Hung. In nine episodes this season: four 0.5 ratings and five 0.4 ratings. That adds up to a 0.44 average, down about 60% from its Boardwalk lead-in and also down a whooping 67% from the True Blood-fueled first nine of last year. The season finale aired last night.
How to Make it in America: I guess the good news for the low-rated How to Make it In America is that it's now getting a reliable 0.3 demo rather than sometimes sprinkling in some 0.2s as it did in October. That 0.28 average is now down by 18% from last season.
Beavis and Butt-head (MTV): Last month, I chronicled the huge week two drop the Beavis and Butt-head revival took (from 1.8 to 1.1). Since then, it hasn't dropped too much, mostly posting 0.9s and 1.0s in the weeks since then. Its average through seven episodes is a 1.07 demo.
Good Vibes (MTV): I haven't seen numbers yet on last week's Good Vibes, but the trajectory for the animated program isn't good: 0.8 -> 0.6 -> 0.5 -> 0.4 in its first four weeks. That fourth airing on November 16 was below 800,000 viewers! And while the two eps' results from last week aren't known, it doesn't really seem like a good sign that MTV unloaded two episodes at 11:00 and 11:30.
Thursday Night Football (NFL Network): Starting just before the halfway point of the season, the NFL introduces a weekly Thursday night game on their NFL Network. These typically pale ratings-wise in comparison to all other national NFL telecasts (because the NFL Net isn't available in a lot of homes), but they still do great by cable standards. Most of the four games to date have been somewhere in the 2s demo-wise, but the network got its biggest ratings ever with the Thanksgiving Night matchup between the 49ers and Ravens (4.1 demo).
Dexter (Showtime): Season six of Dexter started out really well, sagged in the subsequent few weeks, but has picked back up a bit in November, hitting a 1.0 demo in three of its last four episodes. As last month, it's up just a little bit from last season - up 2% (with a 0.92 average) through ten episodes.
Homeland (Showtime): One of the few shows to "make a move" in November was Homeland. After posting a 0.4 demo in each of its five October airings, the show took a step up with a 0.5 on November 6, then a series high 0.6 the next week. At a 0.45 demo average, this show is rating similarly to last winter's debut season of Shameless, and (like that show) it's trending up in the second half of the season.
WWE Friday Night Smackdown! (Syfy): Smackdown was trending up when last I did one of these, and its last month has basically matched those results. It's now averaging a 0.95 demo over the last couple months, up by an impressive 19% over the year-ago period (the opening two months on Syfy).
Sanctuary (Syfy): Almost every week, Sanctuary turns in another 0.4 demo. That's added up to a 0.41 average through eight episodes this season, down 6% from last fall's first eight.
Tyler Perry's House of Payne (TBS): For about four years, Wednesday night was the home base for TBS' Tyler Perry comedies. But as the ultra-prolific House of Payne finally nears its end, TBS has shipped it off to Friday night. As is true of almost all shows, House of Payne has taken a hit in its move to Friday. It's gotten 0.6 demos for nearly every episode it's aired on Friday, but it perked way up to a 1.0 and 1.1 for its November 25 episodes. This presumably came because people were tuning in early in anticipation of the premiere of...
For Better or Worse (TBS): Though House of Payne is coming to an end, the Tyler Perry presence on TBS will live on with new show For Better or Worse. Its November 25 premiere episodes did well, each averaging over 3.3 million viewers and a 1.4 demo. This is a lot weaker than the series premieres of the other two Perry shows (House of Payne got a 2.3 demo on 6/6/07, Meet the Browns a 1.8 on 1/7/09), but it's actually stronger than the premiere of Are We There Yet? and other TBS efforts like Glory Daze. Considering these numbers came on a Black Friday night and actually outrated every single broadcast program on the evening... looks good so far.
Rizzoli & Isles: The Closer is used to the regular season environment with full broadcast competition. Rizzoli & Isles isn't, and its first ever winter airing showed it. It posted just 4.78 million viewers and a 0.8 demo. That's 0.3 lower (and nearly a million viewers lower) than any of the summer's results. More importantly, it actually lost demo audience from The Closer, which was rather rare in the summer environment. It actually built frequently back then.
Leverage: Also returning to the schedule in the last week was TNT's Leverage. It pulled 2.10 million viewers and a 0.7 demo. That's actually ahead of the show's invisible return last December (when it managed just a 0.5). But as with the two crime dramas above, it's behind almost all of the ratings from the summer run. Considering last winter's ratings, though, I think it'll be fine if it can hold from here. Things may get easier with The Walking Dead out of the hour (as it was last night).
Hot in Cleveland (TV Land): It's kind of hard to believe it hasn't even been 18 months since Hot in Cleveland posted network-warping premiere numbers for TV Land. But it must feel like a part of the distant past for TV Land. This winter's premiere of Hot in Cleveland pulled just 1.94 million viewers and a 0.4 demo. That represents just a third of that June 2010 series premiere demo (and only about 40% of the total viewers)! It's also way down from the 2.95 million and 0.7 demo posted in the season premiere from last January.
The Exes (TV Land): Perhaps part of the reason Hot in Cleveland feels to me like it's been around awhile is that it's launched so many other shows. Last Wednesday, TV Land tried their third post-Cleveland show, The Exes, and it didn't do well. It dropped from the above 1.94 million/0.4 demo from Cleveland to just 1.44 million viewers and a 0.3 demo. How's that stack up with the other Cleveland lead-outs? Even though Retired at 35 (2.01 million viewers, 0.5 demo) had a much bigger lead-in, it still feels weaker than that one, and it's certainly weaker than the Happily Divorced premiere (2.41 million viewers, 0.5 demo), which actually built slightly on its own Cleveland lead-in.
Covert Affairs: The move to the regular season wasn't looking too good for Covert Affairs ratings in the opening few weeks. It opened with a modest 1.0 demo on November 1 and dropped to 0.8 -> 0.7 -> 0.7 in the next three weeks. Then came November 29 and a big spike up to a 1.0 demo, riding a wave of increases for USA dramas throughout the week. The most obvious commonality among those shows was that CBS' crime dramas were sitting out the week in all three timeslots. Tomorrow night's finale also doesn't have to go up against Unforgettable, so maybe it can keep it up.
Psych: As with Covert Affairs, Psych had been slumping a bit in the last couple weeks but really perked up with CSI out of the hour last week, rising to a 1.2 demo. The first seven episodes have averaged a 1.03 demo, which I feel obligated to note makes it USA's highest-rated drama this fall (barely ahead of Burn Notice). It's down 1% from the 1.04 average of last fall's seven-episode run.
Burn Notice: As I said last month, I think the easiest conclusion to make about Burn Notice is that it's just past its ratings prime. Though it rode last week's USA original upswing too (pulling a 1.2 demo with CBS competition The Mentalist out of the picture), the 1.00 average of its first four episodes is still down a whooping 27% from the first four of last fall. One positive was that its performance last week was the best (relative to previous results this fall) of any of the dramas; it was 0.2 higher than all other Burn Notice episodes this fall. So let's see if it can build on that momentum.
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at SpottedRatings.com or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.