The Futon Critic always points out in its 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season that over two-thirds of broadcast newbies don't get to season 2. So on that note, let's assume that being in the top third of newbies is good and being in the bottom two-thirds is not good.
First, lists of all the newbies' sampling and retention.*
The Vampire Diaries (6.3)
NCIS: LA 4.4
Cougar Town 4.4
Modern Family 4.2
Melrose Place (3.9)
Accidentally on Purpose 3.3
The Good Wife 3.1
The Forgotten 2.6
The Beautiful Life: TBL (1.8)
The Good Wife +3%
Accidentally on Purpose -6%
Modern Family -10%
Cougar Town -14%
The Vampire Diaries -16%
The Beautiful Life: TBL -18%
The Forgotten -23%
Melrose Place -31%
The lines denote the best third, average third, and worst third of new shows in those categories.** Now let's say you get 3 points for being in the best third of one category, two for being average, one for being worst. Here's the graphic I cooked up.
You're in good shape if you're top-third in both categories, and as I said in the initial post, even an average showing in one category can be made up for by a great showing in another. Mathematically, that would still put you in one of the top three blocks overall with 5 total points. Anything worse than that and there's trouble. This will get a little better once we get all the shows in here, but for now, this is what we got. Here's how the shows look so far.
EXCELLENT (6 points) - NCIS: Los Angeles
GOOD ENOUGH (5 points) - Modern Family, The Vampire Diaries, Cougar Town, Flashforward, Accidentally on Purpose
BORDERLINE (4 points) - Glee, The Good Wife
IN TROUBLE (2-3 points) - Community, Melrose Place, Mercy (3 points), TBLTBL, The Forgotten, Eastwick (2 points)
Is this a perfect or even good system? No, but I think having all the new shows in here is going to help. It doesn't take into account lead-in dynamics (which explains why it likely overvalues AOP), shifts in timeslot competition (Community got shalacked by Grey's/CSI in week 2), or network standards (even though the four nets were fairly bunched average-wise in premiere week, NBC obviously has lower scripted standards than CBS). But I think overall it's not bad so far. Five of its six "safe" shows look very good for back nines if not second seasons in NCIS:LA, MF, CT, Flashforward and Vampire Diaries. We'll see how it develops as more new shows become eligible.
*- For sampling, in order to bring the CW into the mix, I'm multiplying its A18-49 demos by 3 to get a comparable number. The thinking here is that the entire big 3 averaged between a 2.7 and a 3.3 in premiere week, while CW had a 1.0 even average. And out of laziness, I'm sticking with the W18-34 declines for a CW retention number. Pretty messy, but then again all these mad scientist things I do on this blog seem to be. Also, these numbers are updated for finals whereever possible, so they may not match up with previous posts.
**- I allowed only 4 top-thirds because that's closer to thefutoncritic's percentage (31%) than 5/14 would be.