I'm back with another monthly look at the cable TV landscape! We've got tons of new blood this time as lots of shows had their winter premieres in January.
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. (Also, for this month, all these numbers are through February 2.)
I'm covering 31 shows on 13 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. I may have forgotten something big with all the premieres in January. Here we go!
The Lying Game: I guess pairing two paring two shows about lying from the same creators was a good idea! The Lying Game looked pretty much dead on arrival last summer but held its 0.5 demo almost completely through most of the summer run. This January, with the Pretty Little Liars lead-in, it premiered at series high levels (0.6 demo on January 2) and has grown since then, posting 0.7's each of its last three weeks. It adds up to a 0.65 demo average through five episodes.
Switched at Birth: One of my disappointments of January was that Switched at Birth didn't take off the way Pretty Little Liars did in January 2011. After averaging over a 1.1 demo during the summer, the winter premiere managed just a 1.0, and it seems to have now settled at around a 0.8. The average through five episodes is a 0.85 demo, still quite good for ABC Family but not on par with their big anchors like Pretty Little Liars and Secret Life.
Jane By Design: The network's lowest-rated original has been their new one, Jane By Design, which has averaged a 0.53 demo in its first five episodes. Not great, especially considering the nearly 40% average drop from Switched, but it actually is a bit stronger than the opening five episodes of shows like The Lying Game and last summer's one-and-done The Nine Lives of Chloe King. I wouldn't be surprised to see it get some kind of extension.
Hell on Wheels (AMC): I've mentioned on a few occasions the big drops this show took after its huge The Walking Dead lead-in went off the air. The show finished season one with a 0.99 demo average, but its level after Dead's departure was much lower. It seemed to have stabilized at around a 0.7 demo in its December and January episodes, but that level still warranted a renewal on AMC.
The Game (BET): Last winter, BET's revival of former CW sitcom The Game was one of the biggest ratings surprises of the whole year; its astounding 3.6 demo was well over double its best performance ever on the CW. It ultimately came down a lot from the premiere, but the 2.0ish level at which it settled still made it one of cable's biggest shows. This year, it looks like the same trajectory but at a lower level. The one-hour premiere pulled a still-amazing 2.8 demo on January 10, then it dropped to a 2.0 in week two and into the mid-1's each of the last couple weeks. The 2.14 average is down 20% from the first five episodes of last season.
Let's Stay Together (BET): The Game's 10:30 lead-out is also back for another winter run on BET, and while it continues to take significant drops out of The Game, it's held up better compared to last year. Its 1.35 demo average is down 10% from last year's first five.
Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): Comedy Central brought back its biggest program last Tuesday to a little over three million viewers and a 1.9 demo, down by two tenths from the January 2011 premiere. It's one of TV's most demo-friendly shows, with 78% of its audience falling between 18 and 49 (and most of those are men).
Key & Peele (Comedy Central): The Comedy Central press release noted Key & Peele was its network's biggest premiere since 2009. The 2.08 million viewers and 1.2 demo are OK, but they still represent a big drop from the Tosh.0 lead-in.
Archer: The third season of FX's Archer still isn't breaking out into the network's upper echelon of shows, but it's become a pretty reliably decent performer. Its 0.66 average through three episodes is up 4% from last year's first three.
Unsupervised: Unsupervised is FX's attempt to find an animated companion to Archer, but so far it hasn't gone very well. The show premiered to a 0.5 demo on January 19 and has then posted a 0.3 and a 0.4 in its two subsequent episodes. That adds up to a 0.40 average, down about 40% from Archer on average.
Luck (HBO): The critical acclaim has poured in for Luck, so HBO's already rewarded the show with a second season. But so far, the ratings aren't there. The show premiered to a mere 1.06 million viewers and 0.3 demo on January 29. That's just a small fraction of the ratings pulled by most of their other big-name dramas. We'll have to see if some more acclaim and possible Emmy love can bring these numbers up.
Teen Mom 2 (MTV): With The Game down this season, it's MTV's steady Teen Mom that has become the demo queen of Tuesday night. Its 2.01 average through nine episodes this winter is down 1% from the first nine of last winter.
Jersey Shore (MTV): I think it's now pretty certain that we'll look back on the winter 2011 run as the peak of the Jersey Shore phenomenon. This winter's season looks like it'll be the first down year-to-year season in Jersey Shore history, and it may be down quite a bit. (It's currently down 16% through five episodes.) But, perspective: even with those drops, it's still the biggest program on cable and the biggest 10:00 entertainment program on all of TV. A 3.66 demo average is obviously nothing to sneeze at.
Shameless (Showtime): The breakout show of this winter, at least on a year-to-year basis, has clearly been Shameless. The show premiered with a 0.8 demo on January 8, which was double its season one premiere numbers, and the huge year-to-year increases have continued. Through four episodes, it's averaging a 0.71 demo, up 58% from last year's first four!
House of Lies (Showtime): The lead-out of Shameless, House of Lies, was not exactly a break-out out of the gate, premiering with a 0.5 demo and dropping to a 0.4 in its subsequent two eps. But it spiked to a new series high 0.6 demo in its most recent episode and is averaging a 0.45 overall. We'll see in February if this was a blip or a trend.
Californication (Showtime): Bringing up the rear in Showtime's Sunday block is Californication and its 0.38 average through four episodes. But that's still up a huge 38% from the first four of last season, when it was mixed in with a much weaker Shameless and the relatively soft Episodes.
Lost Girl: The US run of Canadian import Lost Girl on Syfy has taken big dips from its Being Human lead-in, averaging a 0.48 through its first three episodes, but those numbers may still be acceptable considering the negative costs are likely less than usual.
WWE Friday Night Smackdown!: Basically since October or so, the Smackdown! ratings have been a mix of 0.8's, 0.9's and 1.0's, and for now this show is (like Raw on USA) bigger than any of its network's scripted shows. It's also close to what the show was pulling at this time last year.
Sanctuary: Just had to pick up the finale, which we didn't have last time. It pulled in yet another 0.4 demo after Smackdown, adding up to an exactly 0.40 demo average, down about 7% from last season.
Merlin: One of the more surprising developments this fall has been the rise of Merlin, which had gotten used to turning in a Sanctuary-esque 0.4 or so in its post-Smackdown episodes. But the first month of this season has seen that bar raised. The show premiered with a 0.4 but has then posted surprising 0.6's in two of its three episodes since then. That adds up to a 0.52 average, up a massive 39% from last season's first four.
Tyler Perry's House of Payne (TBS): It was a good month for House of Payne, which has mostly been settled around a 0.6 demo since its move to Friday but posted a couple 0.8's and an 0.9 in the month of January. It averaged a 0.71 demo this month overall, which almost exactly tied November as its best month on Friday.
Leverage: TNT's caper drama finished its winter run on a high note, hitting a winter-high 0.8 demo in each of its last two episodes. The eight-episode season finished with a 0.68 demo average, a little better than its three episodes from the previous winter.
Hot in Cleveland (TV Land): As I've chronicled in past editions, it's been a struggle for TV Land's Hot in Cleveland. The 0.36 average through ten episodes this winter is down a huge 28% from the ten episodes of last winter.
The Exes (TV Land): And TV Land's The Exes was not the show to take the network to the next level, averaging just a 0.27 demo (down 25% from Hot in Cleveland) in its ten-episode first season. Despite being the network's lowest-rated series in the Hot in Cleveland era, it got renewed for a season two, so we still don't know how low these shows have to go to get canned.
White Collar: The good thing about White Collar is that it still holds up in a regular season environment much better than many other USA shows. The bad news is that it's still not having a particularly good winter so far. Its 1.07 average through three episodes is down 18% from the first three eps of 2011.
Royal Pains: A good example of a show that does not hold up well in the regular season is Royal Pains. It looked like true panic time when the show premiered to a 0.9 demo three weeks ago, but it's since grown its audience each of the last two weeks and got a 1.1 last week. But even that 1.1 is still two tenths weaker than any airing from the most recent summer run. The 0.97 average through three weeks is down 12% from last year's first three winter eps.
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at SpottedRatings.com or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.