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March 2012 Cable Ratings Guide

I'm back with another monthly look at the cable TV landscape! As always, 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. In this edition, all these numbers are up to date through Thursday, March 29.

I'm covering 36 shows on 15 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. Here we go!

For more, check out the previous cable guides here at SpoilerTV:
September/October | November | December | January | February

Breakout Kings (A&E): The sophomore run for A&E's Breakout Kings hasn't exactly been a breakout success. The March 4 premiere's 0.8 demo was down about a third from the March 2011 series premiere, and it's only dropped from there, to an 0.7 each of the next two weeks and then an ugly 0.5 last week. The 0.66 average thus far is down 31% from season one's first four.

Pretty Little Liars: ABC Family's biggest show of the winter basically settled at a 1.0 demo for most of February and March, including four straight 1.0's leading into the finale. But the finale (and the big "A" reveal) brought in a massive spike to 3.69 million viewers and a 1.6 demo on March 19. The 1.6 was its biggest number ever. The season as a whole ended up averaging a 1.11 demo, down 3% from last winter.

The Lying Game: Last month's post was missing just the finale, which pulled a 0.5 demo on March 5. The season ended up averaging a 0.59 demo, certainly underwhelming compared to its Pretty Little Liars lead-in but stronger than its summer run. There was a rumor about an upcoming renewal last month, but it hasn't officially happened yet.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Last week's premiere of Secret Life drew 2.51 million viewers and a 1.1 A18-49 rating, down from the 3.33 million viewers and 1.3 demo of the March 2011 premiere. Worth noting: that season dropped huge from the premiere and settled in the 0.8-0.9 range, so this season could still hold up pretty well if more of the premiere viewers stick around.

Make It Or Break It:  The new season of Make It Or Break It kicked off with 1.57 million viewers and a 0.7 demo, an almost identical drop to the one taken by lead-out Secret Life. And like Secret Life, the previous season took a big post-premiere dive, so don't count out MIOBI if it can hold the premiere audience better.

Switched at Birth: The twelve episode winter run of Switched at Birth ended up averaging a 0.77 demo, very solid for that network but significantly down from its debut run in the summer. Despite that, ABC Family is keeping the show off their summer schedule, and it'll return in the fall.

Jane By Design: As with The Lying Game, we had everything but the finale last month, and said Jane By Design finale perked up to 1.49 million total viewers (best since the premiere) and a 0.53 demo rating. The season as a whole averaged a 0.49 demo, weakest on ABC Family's winter schedule, but it returns for a summer run after Pretty Little Liars this June.

The Walking Dead (AMC): AMC's megahit The Walking Dead shattered even more ratings records in its season finale, hitting a ridiculous 4.7 demo along with 8.99 million viewers. The spring half of the season averaged a 3.89 demo and was more often than not the biggest drama of the week, counting the big broadcasters. The finale actually ranked third on all of TV for that week, behind only The Voice and American Idol and ahead of every single scripted show on the broadcasters! After-show Talking Dead got a run immediately after the finale and shattered its previous highs by hitting 4.30 million viewers and a 2.3 demo.

Comic Book Men (AMC): AMC's reality show Comic Book Men averaged a 0.84 demo in its six-episode run and continued to post horrible retention out of The Walking Dead every week. But the show held up somewhat decently when pushed to 10:30 after Talking Dead, averaging 1.35 million viewers and a 0.77 demo in its March 18 finale.

Mad Men (AMC): This show has long been labeled the most-hyped show to never break a 1.0 18-49 rating, but its fifth season premiere after a 17-month hiatus finally shook off the label. Mad Men premiered to 3.54 million viewers and a 1.2 A18-49 rating, up significantly from the 2.92 million and 0.9 of its season four premiere. Hard to say how well it will hold up going forward, but these numbers are legitimate cable hit levels now. The idea that it's a "critically beloved show that nobody watches" should be pretty much dead, but I imagine it will persist because of the inevitable comparisons to The Walking Dead on the same network.

The Game (BET): The Game still does very well by cable standards and absolutely great by BET standards, but it's not really able to compete with the broadcasters in its Tuesday 10/9c timeslot the way it could last season. Just like last month, the second season of its BET run has settled in the low-1's, way down both from last season and even from early this season. The first eleven episodes are now averaging a 1.69 demo, down by 29% from the first eleven of last season.

Let's Stay Together (BET): As the season has progressed, Let's Stay Together has looked increasingly strong when compared with its The Game lead-in. The show's 1.12 average through eleven episodes is down 10% year-to-year, but a show that was once holding barely half of its The Game lead-in is now typically holding well over two thirds.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): With MTV's Teen Mom off the air and BET's The Game dipping in the second half of its season, Tosh.0 has emerged as the king of Tuesday cable. But it too has been down significantly. It's averaging a 1.57 demo through nine episodes this spring, down by 16% year-to-year.

Key & Peele (Comedy Central): The Tosh.0 lead-out Key & Peele scored an early renewal but didn't pick up any momentum in its last few episodes, trickling from 0.9 down to 0.8 down to 0.7 in its last three episodes. The season averaged a 0.91 demo.

South Park (Comedy Central): Comedy Central's iconic animation program returned in March and has remained just a little behind Tosh.0 on the Comedy Central totem pole. Through three episodes, it's averaging a 1.44 demo, and that's down by just 6% from the first three of last spring.

Justified: While Justified had a somewhat soft middle of the season against drama competition like Southland and White Collar, those shows have trickled away in recent weeks and Justified has picked up a bit. The 0.89 average to date is down 4% from last year, but over the last three weeks it's been steady at a 0.9 and almost exactly even with last year.

Archer: The FX animated tentpole had a great season, up year-to-year pretty much from wire to wire. Its 13-episode winter/spring run ended up averaging a 0.67 demo, 23% ahead of the previous season. The finale (0.78 demo) was up a stout 47%.

Unsupervised: The low-rated first season of Unsupervised just kept trickling downward, dropping below the 0.3 demo threshold on a couple occasions in March. On multiple occasions, it couldn't even hold half of its Archer lead-in, and the season as a whole averaged a 0.35 demo. Nothing's announced yet, but I wouldn't count on this show returning.

Luck (HBO): The story of Luck's cancellation will go down as one of the most bizarre in recent memory, as it shut down very early in the making of season two after a third horse died during production. Its March 25 season one finale will now go down as the series finale. But this is no ratings hit that HBO is losing; the season averaged a measly 0.22 demo, and most data points were actually below 0.2. The finale averaged just 440,000 viewers and a 0.19 demo.

Army Wives (Lifetime): Army Wives got off to what looked like a pretty good start, as the two-hour premiere was only down a bit from the previous season's premiere. Since then, it's been all downhill, going 1.0 -> 0.9 -> 0.8 since. It's still by far its network's strongest scripted option, but the 1.03 average through five episodes (counting the premiere twice) is down 21% from the first five of last season.

Jersey Shore (MTV): The fifth season of Jersey Shore limped to the finish, managing just a 2.8 and 2.7 demo in its final two episodes. Even at its depressed late-season numbers, it's still one of the biggest 10:00 shows on TV, but this season's 3.22 average was down 23% from the year-ago season. With most of these high-buzz shows, there is no turning back once the declines begin. The first Shore spinoff The Pauly D Project kicked off last week with a 1.6 demo.

Shameless (Showtime): The breakout season continues for Shameless, as it's remained massively up year-to-year almost every week. Its 0.71 average through eleven episodes is up 53% from season one, and that gap could grow a little more after the finale results are in.

House of Lies (Showtime): Though Shameless has remained solid, House of Lies has gotten a little weaker in the month of March. All four airings in March were below a 0.4 demo after just one of the first seven went below that threshold. It's averaging a 0.42 demo with last night's finale results still pending.

Californication (Showtime): Shameless' rise has been the real story of Showtime Sundays, but Californication remains up by just as much by percent. It's now averaging a 0.38 demo, up by 55% from last season, and it actually built on its House of Lies demo lead-in for the first time on March 18 (0.36 vs. 0.30).

Being Human: Syfy's Being Human continued to hover just a little north of the 0.6 demo threshold and continued to build big on its numbers from last season. It's averaging a 0.68 demo in season two, up by 17% from the first eleven episodes of last season.

Lost Girl: Canadian import Lost Girl has kept chugging along as well, still averaging a 0.45 demo in the post-Being Human timeslot and scoring almost exactly that number every single week. In fact, all eight episodes in February and March have been somewhere between 0.41 and 0.46!

WWE Friday Night Smackdown!: This show has stayed steady with yet another month of 0.8's and 0.9's in March. The 0.89 average for the month put it almost exactly even with its levels at this time a year ago.

Merlin: Unlike the other three "keep chugging along" shows on Syfy, Merlin had kind of a soft month, dropping slightly below 0.5 in each of its four airings in March. But the season is still up by a great 25% from last year and averaging an 0.49 overall, with Friday's finale results pending.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne (TBS): House of Payne only aired on the first two weeks of March, but the four episodes averaged a fairly soft 0.60 demo, down about a tenth from February's average.

Southland (TNT): Southland kind of stumbled to the finish, posting about a 0.6 demo in its first two March episodes and then oddly dropping to a season low 0.54 for the finale. But it still averaged a 0.63 demo for the season, down just 6% from last season, which is pretty good considering the heavy cable competition on Tuesday. There were rumors about an upcoming fifth season renewal last month, but as far as I know that was never made official.

Hot in Cleveland (TV Land): Not really sure what to make of the TV Land sitcoms in March. Hot In Cleveland had two 0.5 ratings, suggesting the show might finally be turning things around after declining throughout most of its existence, but in the middle of those two big nights, the show posted its typical 0.3 numbers. The first 0.5 might've been about the return of Happily Divorced, and maybe the other was a fluke.

Happily Divorced (TV Land): Happily Divorced looked pretty good in its return, bringing in 1.44 million viewers and a 0.44 demo, but the three episodes since then have averaged just a 0.29 demo. That adds up to a 0.32 average thus far, a lot weaker than its June 2011 premiere run (but its Hot In Cleveland lead-in was a lot stronger back then too).

WWE Raw: The wrestling franchise remains the runaway biggest program on USA Network. It averaged a 1.77 demo in the month of March, up a smidge from the 1.72 of January but down from the low-2's average of March 2011.

Psych: The spring run of Psych began a little softly with an 0.81 demo on Leap Day, but it's perked up a bit in March and is now averaging a 0.89 demo through five episodes. However, it's still a good bit weaker than the 1.0+ average of the fall run.

Fairly Legal: USA's return to programming on Friday nights has not exactly recalled memories of the good old days with Monk and Psych. Fairly Legal premiered on March 16 with 3.50 million viewers and just a 0.68 demo, then dropped to a fairly weak 0.56 in week two. That 0.62 average is down 42% from the first two of the show's already underwhelming season one. That's of course not a totally fair comparison since this season is on Friday night and the last season wasn't, but the show is clearly not off to a good start by USA's standards.

In Plain Sight: While the final season of In Plain Sight hasn't set the world on fire either in its Friday debut, it's at least held up better relative to its previous results than Fairly Legal. It premiered to a 0.81 and dropped to a 0.73 in week two. The 0.77 average is down just 19% from last year's first two.

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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