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Ratings Five-Spot - Pretty Little Liars, Work It, Once Upon a Time, The Firm, Shameless

Happy midseason! Here's the Ratings Five-Spot for the first week of 2012:

  • Pretty Little Liars - The first cable network to really get in gear this midseason was ABC Family, which put four dramas on the schedule in the first two days of last week. Overall, it could've gone better. Probably most impressive was Monday anchor Pretty Little Liars, which scored 3.34 million viewers and a 1.3 A18-49 rating. That was down from last winter's premiere of 4.22 million and a 1.5, but that episode was easily the biggest in series history. If PLL can hold close to this number, it'll have another solid season. That led into series highs for The Lying Game (1.76 million viewers, 0.6 A18-49). That's a nice improvement for a show that had never gotten higher than 1.46 million and 0.5 in the fall. It certainly makes sense that PLL would be a good companion for the show.
    On Tuesday came the return of Switched at Birth with 2.74 million viewers and a 1.0 A18-49 rating. I was a little disappointed by those below-average numbers, as the show really picked up some steam in the last few weeks of its summer run and I was kind of expecting it would break out the way Pretty Little Liars did last winter. Still, they're great numbers by ABC Family's standards. Case in point: its lead-out, the series premiere of Jane By Design, with just 1.61 million viewers and a 0.6 demo. That's a pretty modest start, a little better than the summer's Lying Game premiere (1.39 million, 0.5) but certainly worse than the summer premiere of Switched at Birth (3.30 million, 1.3) and even ultimately failed The Nine Lives of Chloe King (2.17 million, 0.7). The best spin to put on this is that The Lying Game is still around after a similarly-rated premiere. If this show can hold up as well post-premiere, it's got a shot.
  • Work It - The first new scripted show this midseason on broadcast was ABC's controversial cross-dressing comedy Work It. Ridiculous premises have certainly scored huge ratings in the past, but this particular one didn't; Work It kicked off last Tuesday with an underwhelming 6.16 million viewers and 2.0 A18-49 rating. That meant a drop of four tenths from its Last Man Standing lead-in. It was also four tenths weaker than ABC's previous comedy launch in the timeslot, Man Up! Considering Man Up! is already out of the picture, that's not a good start at all. It's going to have to pretty much maintain if not build these ratings to stick around, and that's going to be a tall order for the worst-reviewed scripted show in over four years.
  • Once Upon a Time - Of the big five networks, ABC was by far the closest to "full strength" in this opening week of 2012. Because overall viewing was high but the competition was fairly limited, the vast majority of ABC shows increased from their last original ratings. In my opinion, the two most impressive performances belonged to ABC's two strongest dramas. I'll start with Once Upon a Time, whose huge rebound was one of the biggest surprises of last week. It's been kind of a wild ratings trajectory for Once, which steadily pulled upper-3 demos for its first month on the air, then dropped multiple tenths for three straight episodes after a one-week hiatus. Last Sunday, it completely reversed course again, skyrocketing to a (preliminary) 3.7 demo rating and over ten million viewers, leaving the show only a little shy of where it was in that first month. And it represented a 28% percent increase from its last episode.
    And the other drama, Grey's Anatomy? It came off an eight-week hiatus with a bang, posting over 12 million viewers and a 4.5 demo, easily its highest numbers this season and, aside from last spring's musical episode, its highest in almost 15 months. Though the competition will ramp up considerably for most of the ABC shows starting next week, these two series got great starting points.
  • The Firm - New year, same old NBC. Their first scripted series launch of the year, co-production The Firm, got off to a very disappointing start. It managed just (preliminarily) 6.3 million viewers and a 1.4 demo for its two-hour Sunday premiere, a shadow of what NBC got with their launch of The Cape (2.6) last year in the same situation. And it's not like The Cape turned out to be a success. What's got to really sting about these numbers is that, due to its co-production arrangement, NBC still has twenty episodes on the shelf. If these initial ratings are a sign of things to come, it's hard to imagine NBC will be sticking this show out in the plumb Thursday 10/9c timeslot for twenty more weeks.
  • Shameless - I don't have the demo numbers yet (I'll update here when I see them), but it looks like a good return for Showtime's Shameless and House of Lies. First, Shameless opened season two with 1.58 million viewers at 9:00, easily a series high and a massive improvement on its sub-1 million series premiere 52 weeks ago. Leading out was the premiere of new comedy House of Lies with 1.03 million viewers. Compared with other recent Showtime comedy launches, it did fairly well. It was a bit behind The Big C (1.15 million on 8/16/10) but squarely ahead of Californication (550,000 on 8/13/07), The United States of Tara (816,000 on 3/22/10) and Episodes (768,000 on 1/9/11).
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at SpottedRatings.com or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.

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