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Ratings Five-Spot - South Park, Community, Missing, In Plain Sight, The Walking Dead

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Here's the Ratings Five-Spot for the week ending March 18, 2012:

  • South Park - Comedy Central brought back one of its strongest shows last Wednesday, and South Park pulled in 2.63 million viewers and a 1.5 demo. That's down a little chunk from the spring 2011 premiere (3.10 million and a 1.8) but actually outrated fellow Comedy Central tentpole Tosh.0 this week. There's no need to spend a whole lot of time on those numbers; they're solid, and the show is renewed for several more seasons. Its lead-out Ugly Americans had a pretty ugly premiere, managing just 1.05 million viewers and a 0.6 demo. Typically, the show has been able to hold at least 50% of the South Park audience, but this was more like 40%.
  • Community - Perhaps the biggest shocker of the ratings week was the (relatively) huge numbers from Community, which scored 4.75 million viewers and a 2.2 demo rating in its return from a hiatus of more than three months. That was really an amazing performance from a show that never got higher than a 1.8 in the fall. Critics were quick to point out that the show didn't face its usual competitor The Big Bang Theory, one of the biggest shows on TV. That's very legitimate, and that plus the hype dwindling could bring much lower ratings going forward. But I would also point out that Community's return came after Daylight Saving Time, meaning the timeslot had the least overall viewing of any Community timeslot all season. No one can say what the future will bring, but this was a legitimately astounding result and a reason for fans to celebrate. Just don't sign it up for #sixseasonsandamovie until we see what Big Bang brings in two weeks.
  • Missing - Airing in the same timeslot as Community was the series premiere of ABC's Ashley Judd thriller Missing, which pulled in an impressive 10.60 million viewers but skewed quite old with just a 2.1 demo rating. Basically, the analysis of this result is similar to Community's; there was less competition than usual with The Big Bang Theory out of the picture, but also depressed overall viewing. A 2.1 doesn't look like a very good number for a series premiere, but I think the Daylight Saving effect makes it a bit better than it appears. As always, though, the series premiere rating just doesn't mean that much. The question is how much lower than that it settles.
  • In Plain Sight, Fairly Legal - Last week, USA aired original series programming on a Friday night for the first time since Monk's finale in December 2009. Their block of Fairly Legal and In Plain Sight looked pretty solid in total viewers but much more marginal in the 18-49 demo. Fairly Legal debuted with 3.50 million viewers, but less than a quarter of those were 18-49 (0.7 rating). In Plain Sight had 4.01 million viewers, but just over a million were 18-49 (0.8 rating). Both were down significantly in 18-49 from their year-ago premieres. For In Plain Sight, it doesn't matter so much since it's ending after this season anyway. But Fairly Legal tied its season one series low and was over 20% below its season one average in 18-49. The question is whether USA will give Fairly Legal the same kind of break for airing on a little-viewed Friday night that the broadcast networks usually do.
  • The Walking Dead - Each premiere and each finale seems to bring another new ratings milestone for The Walking Dead. The problem is that we're starting to run out of milestones! The season two finale of The Walking Dead scored an unbelievable 8.99 million viewers and a 4.7 A18-49 rating. For most of the back half of the season, TWD was in a really tight race with the top broadcast dramas in 18-49. This time, it absolutely crushed 'em all, and it also crushed just about everything else. In fact, TWD finished third for the entire week in 18-49, behind only The Voice and the Wednesday edition of American Idol. That means the show actually beat the Thursday edition of Idol (4.6) as well as the biggest scripted show on broadcast (Modern Family at 4.5). Pretty crazy stuff for a basic cable drama.
    Also getting a boost was the aftershow Talking Dead, which got its first ever chance to air directly after the original TWD episode. It pulled 4.30 million viewers and a 2.3 demo rating, about four times what it had been doing in its midnight airings. I do think that for this kind of thing to take off, it will have to air directly after the original, but that's some questionable strategy when the show is as big as TWD. In other words, is it a waste of such a ginormous lead-in? That said, the show did better than the Hell on Wheels premiere and well over twice as well as any Comic Book Men episode, so maybe this arrangement is worth considering moving forward.
For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.

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