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Ratings Five-Spot - Terra Nova, Hart of Dixie, Suburgatory, Happy Endings, How to Be a Gentleman

This week's Ratings Five-Spot takes a look at the four new series that premiered in week two of the 2011-12 season, plus a couple second-year comedies that returned to the schedule. Here goes:

  • Terra Nova - Considering how well Fox's new comedy New Girl launched, the expectations for their lone new drama Terra Nova were high. And it didn't meet most of them. The show's two-hour premiere pulled 9.22 million total viewers and a 3.1 adults 18-49 rating. It's not the first hugely hyped Fox drama to disappoint out of the gate; Fringe opened its run back in 2008 with very similar numbers (9.13m, 3.2 A18-49) and it's still alive (if only barely) today. The key difference? Fringe was rescued by massive lead-in support from House starting in week two. House also joined Fox Mondays last night, but it airs at 9:00 rather than as a lead-in to Terra Nova, and it's far from the monster it was back in 2008 anyway (should Fox want to switch the two shows). Back to Terra Nova: a 3.1 demo for a self-starting new program is usually pretty good, but this show will almost certainly have higher-than-usual expectations due to its exorbitant production costs. It's not dead yet, but it doesn't have much breathing room.
  • Hart of Dixie - A couple weeks ago, I took a look at how the CW's new dramas Ringer and The Secret Circle stacked up among recent CW drama premieres. Basically, the verdict was that they were decent starts. Then there was their third drama premiere Hart of Dixie, which got 1.88 million total viewers, a 0.8 A18-49 rating and a 1.4 rating in the CW's target women 18-34. If you look back at that chart, you can see those numbers don't stack up well at all on the drama premiere spectrum. In fact, Hart of Dixie actually rated behind the third-week performances of Ringer (1.98m, 0.9 A18-49) and The Secret Circle (2.12m, 1.0 A18-49). While Hart of Dixie's premiere numbers are still competitive with some other CW shows, we have to keep in mind it's a series premiere and those numbers are likely to drop. I'd say it's in roughly the same boat as Terra Nova: not totally dead on arrival, but the margin for error moving forward is slim.
  • Suburgatory - Last week, I mentioned the developing "year of the comedy" trend, and it kept rolling on for ABC in week two. Week two's strongest series launch was Suburgatory, which got 9.81 million viewers and 3.3 A18-49 in its series premiere last Wednesday. It built significantly on its The Middle lead-in (2.7 A18-49). Barring some really big drops going forward, it appears ABC has finally come up with a strong companion for The Middle. The show premiered much better than ABC's last two Middle companions in the 8:00 hour, Hank (2.1 A18-49 on 9/30/09) and Better with You (2.5 A18-49 on 9/22/10). This premiere means each of the big four networks has launched a promising half-hour comedy in the opening couple weeks of the season.
  • Happy Endings, Mike & Molly - Both of these second-year comedies came back last week. Both came back at series-high levels, with Happy Endings scoring 7.25 million viewers and a 3.1 A18-49 and Mike & Molly getting 13.86 million viewers and a 4.8 demo rating.
    So what's the problem? Well, both shows had much bigger lead-ins than they ever did last year. Happy Endings' previous high was a 2.8 demo for its series premiere, and its Modern Family lead-in that week got just a 3.9. This week, Modern Family got a 5.7! That means the 3.1 for Happy Endings lost nearly half of that lead-in, typically not the kind of showing you want from the second comedy in an hour. And you definitely don't want it to take a big drop from here.
    As for Mike & Molly, its 4.8 demo was also well ahead of anything from season one (its previous high was a 4.0), but so was its lead-in; Two and a Half Men is still heavily inflated from all the Charlie Sheen/Ashton Kutcher drama, and its whooping 7.4 demo was still two and a half points higher than anything from last season. The question for Mike & Molly is whether it's ultimately strong enough to lead off an hour next season. Melissa McCarthy's hot right now, coming off Bridesmaids, an Emmy and a Saturday Night Live hosting gig. So let's see if Mike & Molly can hold up even as Two and a Half Men (presumably) keeps coming back down to earth.
  • How to Be a Gentleman - The big bomb of week two had to be the series premiere of CBS comedy How to Be a Gentleman, which managed a mere 2.7 demo rating and 8.98 million viewers on Thursday at 8:30. On most networks and in most situations, a 2.7 demo rating is a pretty decent start. It's not a pretty decent start leading out of The Big Bang Theory, which scored a huge 4.9 demo at 8:00. That means How to Be a Gentleman retained just 55% of the Big Bang demo audience, one of the worst percentages for a CBS comedy in years. And this was a series premiere, meaning things will most likely only get worse. With CBS veteran Rules of Engagement licking its chops at the prospect of taking over Gentleman's timeslot, the situation for this program is even more dire than most of those above; it has virtually zero breathing room and in fact probably needs to grow to stick around.
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.


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