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Ratings Five-Spot - The Walking Dead, Last Man Standing, Reed Between the Lines, Psych, New Show Roundup

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Here's the Ratings Five-Spot for the week ending October 16, 2011:

  • The Walking Dead - This is another one of those cases where just saying "great ratings" doesn't seem like enough. AMC's zombie drama returned with over 7 million viewers and a whooping 3.8 adults 18-49 rating on Sunday. How big is that?
    As AMC's press release touted, it's the biggest 18-49 drama performance in basic cable history. The best thing you can usually say about a cable program is that it's a "broadcast-sized hit," but this show may even be bigger than that. For example, three of the big four broadcasters (ABC, Fox, NBC) have a combined three drama episodes this season that did better than Dead in 18-49 (the Glee premiere, the House premiere and the Grey's Anatomy premiere). The biggest drama on NBC this season to date got just a 2.4! And the only drama on TV that's consistently stronger than that 3.8 is NCIS on CBS, which usually gets low-4's in the demo.
    This premiere is also way out ahead of its cable peers. This Dead performance had more than twice the 18-49ers of any USA drama episode this summer. It's more than 25% stronger than last summer's premiere of True Blood (previously the biggest drama on cable) and about 50% better than this fall's Sons of Anarchy premiere. And comparing it to AMC's other, more critically-praised offerings? No comparison, really. It got almost three times the A18-49 rating of the biggest Breaking Bad episode ever and more than four times the biggest Mad Men ever.
    So where does it go from here? Season 1 started off with a 2.7 demo (which was itself incredible at the time), then dropped a bit in the next few weeks before picking up to a 2.8 and a 3.0 in the last couple weeks. I'm not convinced it can continue to grow from that huge 3.8, but... if so, it's not too far from being legitimately the biggest 18-49 drama on TV, no qualifiers.
  • Last Man Standing - Tim Allen made his return to TV in a sitcom that feels quite a bit like his old show Home Improvement, and at least for now, the viewers are welcoming him back. The one-hour Last Man Standing premiere got 13.19 million viewers and a 3.6 A18-49 rating, which marks the fourth biggest new series premiere of the season to date. Considering it was leading off the evening for ABC, that's a really good start. Some have suggested this was a bit of a disappointment because Tim Allen is such an iconic comedy figure, but I don't really think so. Have we forgotten how Kelsey Grammer's vehicle Hank fell flat out of the gate just a couple years ago? But with so much nostalgia on this show's side, there's definitely a chance it could drop big this week.
  • Reed Between the Lines - BET premiered its new comedy Reed Between the Lines (starring The Cosby Show's Malcom Jamal-Warner) after a record performance from The BET Awards on Tuesday. The show looked solid out of the gate, scoring a 1.6 A18-49 rating and over 3 million viewers at 10:00 and then dropping to a 1.4 rating at 10:30. For a network that's really had trouble getting anything scripted going beyond its revival of The Game, this is certainly a promising start, but we have to see how it does without the big award show lead-in.
  • Psych - USA's longest-running active drama Psych also returned this week, and like The Walking Dead, it had been off the air for quite awhile. But the show's first airing in 294 days pulled about 3 million viewers and a 1.0 A18-49 rating. That's even with last November's premiere in 18-49 and a little up in viewers. It didn't air last summer and is only just now beginning its sixth season, so there are a lot more airings ahead. But this is a decent enough start.
  • New Show Roundup - Without a clear fifth "spot" for this week, I thought I'd briefly revisit some of the new shows. As promised during premiere week, most of the disappointments out of the gate are already gone; Free Agents, The Playboy Club, H8R, Charlie's Angels and How to Be a Gentleman are all cancelled or effectively cancelled. NBC's still promoting and encoring the heck out of Prime Suspect, but those efforts aren't showing up in the original ratings.
    Many of the shows that looked good out of the gate seem to have settled at solid to decent numbers, like 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Suburgatory, Revenge and Up All Night. (And all those shows have scored full seasons.) But there are a handful of solid starts that still haven't stabilized; the 3.1 demo for the Pan Am premiere took a drop in week two and then, alarmingly, an even bigger one in week three. It ticked down again to a 1.8 in week four and now seems to be in trouble. NBC's Whitney premiered at a 3.3 and scored a full season, but it's dropped each week and got just a 2.0 last week. So it may not hold onto its cushy post-Office timeslot for much longer. Terra Nova held steady in week two but then dropped a lot in week three; we'll see a little later today just how much of that was due to the big overrun from the MLB playoffs.
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.

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