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May 2013 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. For the regular readers, shows that just began a season in this edition are in blue.

All numbers are up to date through Thursday, May 16. There's lots of spring wrap-up here, as over half of the 37 shows in this month's edition wrapped up their seasons. There will be a ton of premieres in the next one as we get into the early part of the summer!

Bates Motel (A&E): A&E's new drama had a consistently strong first season run, going somewhere between 1.0 and 1.3 in each of its ten episodes and averaging a 1.19. The show's three strongest episodes (all right around a 1.3 demo) were all in the last four weeks, but then the show took an odd dip to a 1.05 for last week, on a night when several other shows dropped.

Duck Dynasty (A&E): As nice as the Bates Motel story has been, the real crown jewel on A&E of late has been reality series Duck Dynasty, the latest cable megahit. It averaged an unbelievable 3.78 demo in its spring 2013 run, frequently beating every single broadcast show on the night (including Modern Family and American Idol).

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family): Once the show that put the ABC Family network on the map, Secret Life now ends its run getting unspooled during a relatively slow time of year for the network. It's averaging a mere 0.46 demo in this final run, down a whooping 40% from this time a year ago, and in recent weeks it's stabilized at right around a paltry 0.4.

The Walking Dead (AMC): In the last edition, we had all but the finale numbers. And what a finale it was, averaging a staggering 6.4 demo rating, a series high and tied for the highest number for any regularly-scheduled entertainment episode, broadcast or cable, all season. It boosted the season average to a 5.78, up 48% from last spring and easily higher than any entertainment show on broadcast.

Mad Men (AMC): In recent weeks, The Walking Dead has handed the Sunday night baton off to the much lower-rated Mad Men. Though the show has historically continued to grow as the buzz has built, this season may indicate the show has finally peaked. The 1.1 demo premiere on April 7 was the first season premiere to not mark a series high, and it's dropped below a 1.0 in subsequent weeks. It's now averaging a 0.96 demo, down by 6% on the first seven hours of last season.

The Game (BET): While The Game is still among the highest-rated comedies on cable, it's no longer capable of the truly breakthrough ratings of its first couple seasons on BET. The 1.2 demo for its March 26 return was down more than half from last season's premiere, but unlike in previous seasons, it's settled pretty close to the premiere rating (hitting a 1.0 each of the last four weeks). So while the 1.02 average is still -43% year-to-year, that gap should continue to close unless the show collapses from here.

Let's Stay Together (BET): Since The Game arrived on BET, Let's Stay Together has been its lead-out and basically followed its ratings trajectory. Its 0.71 average is down 41% from last season's first eight.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): Tosh.0 remains one of the great draws for young male viewers on cable, though its 1.30 demo average this spring is down 17% from last year.

Justified: The season finale of Justified was another one of those head-scratching moments (kind of like the Bates Motel finale), as it dropped to a series low 0.74 demo. Still, it was another rock-solid season for the veteran FX drama, which turned in a 0.90 demo average, dead even with last year.

The Americans: FX's critically-acclaimed rookie drama started well enough with a 1.2 demo premiere in January, but it settled at only half of that at best in the second half of the season. While it's not a total flop at a 0.67 demo average, FX will certainly be hoping to boost the buzz around the show during its long hiatus.

Anger Management: FX continues to limp through its substantial 90-episode order for Anger Management; the show has actually dropped as low as a 0.3 demo on a couple recent occasions. It's averaging a 0.51 for the season, less than half of its average from those first ten episodes last summer, and it's usually lower than that lately.

Archer: While Anger Management has struggled in the Thursday 9:30 slot for FX, they've at least had a true breakout performance at 10:00 with Archer. The animated comedy averaged a 0.93 demo, up a stout 38% from last season, and it closed the season on April 11 with a near-series high 1.08 demo.

Legit: Archer's lead-out Legit was a flop by pretty much any Nielsen rating measure, averaging just a 0.37 demo despite its strong lead-in. But FX creatively rescued the show by shipping its second season off to new sister network FXX.

Game of Thrones (HBO): When The Walking Dead and The Bible wrapped up their seasons, some might have thought that'd be the end of all the stories about some cable upstart beating every single broadcast network show on Sunday nights. Instead, Game of Thrones has taken up the mantle, pulling off the feat three times already this season. And it's having a breakout season compared to its previous ratings, averaging a huge 2.55 demo and getting as high as a 2.9 a couple weeks ago. That average is up 34% on the first seven of last season.

Veep (HBO): Sophomore comedy Veep has ridden the Game of Thrones wave, growing 21% in season two to a 0.65 demo. Of course, that means its retention of Game of Thrones is only about a quarter, but HBO tells us we are not supposed to care about things like that!

The Bible (History): Among the many huge events on Sunday nights this spring was History's The Bible miniseries, which started at a huge 3.3 demo, then dropped into the upper 2's for most of the rest of the run before getting back to a 3.0 for the March 31 finale. Overall, it averaged a 2.85 and was yet another cable offering that embarrassed the broadcast programs on the night.

Vikings (History): One of the great stories of the late spring in cable was how well new drama Vikings held up after its huge lead-in The Bible came to an end. Considering History renewed the drama before we ever got to see one of those ratings, it had to be a big sigh of relief. The show dropped from a 1.3 in its last post-Bible ep to a 1.2 in its first without-Bible ep, and then it actually got back to its post-Bible levels in the last couple episodes (1.4 and 1.3). The season as a whole averaged a very solid 1.41 demo.

Army Wives (Lifetime): The almost complete cast overhaul on Army Wives has led to further ratings declines for the series. It's averaging a 0.79 demo through ten episodes, down by 19% year-to-year. But the three highest ratings for the season have all come in the last month, so maybe the new cast is catching on to some degree.

The Client List (Lifetime): Last season, The Client List became perhaps Lifetime's biggest scripted success since Army Wives. This season, it's remained pretty strong, averaging a 0.84 demo through ten episodes and usually building on its Army Wives lead-in. That average is down 10% from last year.

Awkward (MTV): The MTV comedy made a solid return to the airwaves on April 16, averaging a 0.92 demo in its two-episode premiere, actually a little ahead of the previous season's premiere. But it's been all downhill from there, hitting a 0.6 or 0.7 the next three weeks and then getting as low as an ugly 0.5 last week. Its 0.71 average is down a perfectly reasonable 8% from last year's first six eps, but that's going to get worse unless it starts to rebound fast.

Shameless (Showtime): I'll run through Showtime's early spring lineup quickly since we had most of the info in the last edition. Shameless grew to a strong 0.9 for the finale, finishing off another season of growth. The 0.82 average was up 16% year-to-year.

House of Lies (Showtime): House of Lies followed Shameless and also had a positive season, but not to the same extent as Shameless. Its 0.44 average was up 5%.

Californication (Showtime): By 10:30, the Showtime growth was over; Californication averaged a mere 0.31 demo, and a show that sometimes grew from House of Lies last year couldn't pull it off this time. It was down 20% year-to-year.

Being Human: After getting mired in the 0.4 range for awhile, Being Human finished its season pretty well, hitting a 0.6 and two 0.5's in the last three weeks. The season averaged a 0.48 demo, down a large 26% year-to-year, but that's not such a bad number for Syfy, so it's coming back for season four in 2014.

Lost Girl: Syfy followed Being Human with Canadian import Lost Girl, which finished season three with a 0.37 average, down 17% from its average in the first two seasons. It's also coming back for season four.

Defiance: On a network where 0.4 to 0.5 in the demo has sadly become the new standard for scripted programming, Defiance has looked like a potential breath of fresh air. It premiered to a strong 1.0 demo on April 15, then dropped to 0.8 and held there in weeks two, three and four. Last week brought another big drop, to 0.6, but it was on a night of several other odd drops, so we'll have to see if it was just a blip. The season is averaging a 0.85 demo to date, making it a comfortable season two renewal for Syfy.

Warehouse 13: Despite a good lead-in from Defiance, Warehouse 13 hasn't looked good early in its regular season run. It's averaged just a 0.47 demo, down 26% from the first three of last summer. It's got seven more episodes this season, and Syfy announced it'll then have a six-episode final season.

WWE Smackdown!: Syfy's wrestling franchise has stuck in the general 0.7 vicinity in April and May, occasionally getting up to a 0.8 or down to a 0.6. It's down in the low teens from last season at this time, which is about the same year-to-year trend it's maintained all season.

Merlin: British import Merlin recently returned to play out its final few episodes. The first couple eps in early May maintained about the same 0.3 to 0.4 level it was getting when it last aired in February. The season as a whole (counting the winter run) is averaging a 0.40, down 20% year-to-year.

Cougar Town (TBS): Broadcast refugee Cougar Town finished its first season on cable with a 0.94 demo average, down a third from its final ABC season. It usually dropped significantly from its lead-in, repeats of The Big Bang Theory, but that's true of pretty much every original on TBS, so these numbers were good enough to get the show renewed for another season.

Men at Work (TBS): TBS brought back last summer's decent performer Men at Work, and it's done a lot worse against regular season competition. It's averaging a 0.76 demo, down 26% year-to-year, and it got as low as a 0.6 last week against huge finales from American Idol, The Office and Scandal. We'll have to see if it perks up a bit in the next few weeks as the competition lightens.

Dallas: Though Dallas' move into the winter/spring managed just a 0.75 demo, down nearly a third from its summer 2012 ratings, those ratings were still enough to make it the brightest spot of a weak spring for TNT. It'll be back again in early 2014.

Monday Mornings: Its lead-out Monday Mornings was not so lucky; it was dead on arrival with a 0.31 premiere on February 4, and while it maintained that number exactly over the full season (averaging a 0.31), that level simply wasn't good enough.

Southland: TNT also got out the axe for acclaimed cop drama Southland, which took a 21% dip in season five to just a 0.50 average. It finished the run relatively well, spiking to a season high 0.68 demo on April 17, but unfortunately it wasn't enough.

Boston's Finest: The other survivor of TNT's winter/spring slate was reality series Boston's Finest, whose renewal was announced at the Turner upfront. It averaged a pretty low 0.37 demo, but it was almost certainly a much less expensive option than shows like Southland and Monday Mornings.

WWE Raw (USA): The USA wrestling institution has averaged a 1.52 demo in April and May, a couple notches below where it was at this time last year but still soundly stronger than pretty much all of the network's drama programming.

Psych (USA): Psych is another of those shows airing mostly on an island during a slow time of year for its usually busy network. But it's keeping the lights on fairly effectively, averaging a 0.84 demo rating through 12 episodes. That's just 6% below what it averaged last spring.

For more, check out the previous cable guides here at SpoilerTV:

March 2013 (part 1 | part 2) | January/February 2013 | December 2012 | November 2012 | Late Summer 2012 | Early Fall 2012

Check out the previous Cable Guides dating back to September 2011 on the Cable Guide label!

For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at SpottedRatings.com or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.