Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Two Weeks, Monday/Tuesday

I always like to say there are two ingredients to making a new show a hit: you've got to make people show up, and you've got to make people stay. It's the kind of catchphrase that someone with a lot of authority would come up with to distill the TV ratings world down to their tremendous following. I have neither authority nor following, but I say it anyway, in the hopes that it might appear that I have those things. And it's that catchphrase that is the basis for my assessment of the first two weeks of fall 2009 TV's new shows.

I believe that with just those two data points, you get a decent idea about what's going on in both of those arenas: how many people show up (week 1 sampling) and how many people stay (week 2 retention). You can't become a successful program if you completely bomb in either of those arenas. A huge sampling means nothing if the audience completely abandons it, and usually a big week 2 drop leads to more big drops. If you're dead on arrival it doesn't matter how much of that miniscule audience sticks around. Still, doing very well in one can save a modest performance in the other. For example, ABC's Private Practice started very big, and while the trend for pretty much its entire first two fall runs was downward, the numbers were still big enough at the end of all that to warrant it sticking around. CBS' The Mentalist started with what could be considered only OK numbers for a CBS procedural, but everybody stuck around, and a lot of new people joined, so success was born.

I didn't do one of these yesterday because I wasn't around and because there was only one show in its second week anyway. But there are a few more on Tuesday, so here we go.

Accidentally on Purpose (CBS)
Sampling: 3.3 demo. Not bad if you just look at it on its own, but airing at 8:30 out of a 3.6 demo show at 8, not impressive considering the drastic increase in Households Using TV at 8:30.
Retention: A 6% dropoff in week 2 to a 3.1. A 6% dropoff's going to look pretty good relative to a lot of other drops, but there's only so far down you can reasonably go airing between HIMYM's 3.6 (consistent in both weeks) and the upper-4s of 2.5 Men at 9:00.
Prognosis: A show airing at 8:30 that is much lower than the 8 and 9 shows is in some trouble. The numbers aren't terrible on their own, but being an 8:30 sitcom means you have to do pretty well relative to the 8:00 show, and I don't see that here. I don't see a full season unless the trend improves.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
Sampling: 4.4 demo. It'll be one of the most-sampled new shows of the fall, well ahead of last year's sampling for successful The Mentalist, and lost less than 5% of its NCIS lead-in.
Retention: A 4.1 demo in week 2 means a 7% drop. Well better than average for a scripted show that has basically the same dynamics in week 2.
This thing's a lock for a back nine and very, very likely to get a second season right now. Great sampling and a small drop is what we call a good combination.

The Good Wife (CBS)
Sampling: 3.1 demo. Though this is not catastrophic, the dropoff from NCIS:LA (another new show) is quite significant, retaining only about 70% of that lead-in, and while a 3.1 would be great on most networks, it's not high on the CBS drama totem pole. It could stick around on this number, but not a lot lower.
Retention: 3.1 demo in week 2. Yes, math majors, that's a zero drop.
The great week 2 retention keeps The Good Wife very much in play. Stay at or above 3.0 and this thing's probably fine for a back nine and a second season. Dip into that mid-2's range that saw the end of marginal stuff like Close to Home and Without a Trace canned (despite CBS "caring about total viewers," according to the Internets) and it may get interesting. Based on week 2, that isn't a concern right now.

The Forgotten (ABC)
2.6 demo. This is not great, but stacked up against a lot of other efforts from this network at 10pm, it's workable. It doesn't have very far to go down, but a consistent 2.5ish out of a diminished Dancing with the Stars is something that could probably stick around on ABC. As with The Good Wife, retention needs to be excellent.
The drop to a 2.0 demo means a usually horrific 23% fall in week 2. But it can thank its lead-in for a lot of that, as this is a rough year for Dancing with the Stars. That show fell over a point to a 2.6, meaning Forgotten's lead-in retention actually improved in week 2.
Prognosis: Neither of these numbers are good at all, and I doubt this gets the back nine if I had to guess right now. But the real story on this evening for ABC seems to be Dancing's problems. Could a 2.0 be OK in this slot if Dancing is a mid-2's kind of show? My gut says yes. But my gut also says The Forgotten ain't done dropping either.

Melrose Place (CW)
A lot of people harped on what were, admittedly, very low total viewer numbers for the premiere. It pulled a 1.3 A18-49, and stronger was the 2.6 rating in the CW's target demo, women ages 18-34. Compared to last year's enormous 90210 series premiere it's a big disappointment, but the female demo numbers are decent enough to work from.
Until this happened: a 1.0 A18-49 and a 1.8 W18-34 in week 2. That's a 31% drop in the CW's "target demo." Yeeouch. Again, it's not a number that's entirely unworkable if you're starting with, say, 90210's series premiere numbers. But it certainly does not bode well after the modest start. Drops have continued in subsequent weeks as competition has increased.
Prognosis: I'd say it's doomed, but it still skews in the W18-34 direction, so you just never know with Dawn Ostroff.

Lots of newbies to discuss tomorrow: Modern Fam, Cougar Town, Eastwick, Glee, TBL:TBL, Mercy. Should be fun! And for stuff premiering late (Trauma, Hank/Middle, Three Rivers, Brothers, Cleveland), I'll try to come back to them next week.

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