THE AMAZING RACE (CBS)
Scheduling history: For the first five years of The Amazing Race's existence, the show was something of a utility player, moved six times in a seven season span from 2003 to 2006. But the Sunday 8:00 timeslot was a perfect fit, and we're now at a point where over half of the series' run has aired in that hour.
See (who saw) how it all began: The Amazing Race kicked off with 11.82 million viewers and a 5.0/13 in adults 18-49 on 9/5/01. The next Wednesday was 9/12/01, also known as The Day After 9/11, so there was not entertainment programming on the broadcast networks that evening. The show held up OK after that unfortunate break, scoring a 4.6/12 in week two on 9/19/01, but then it dropped into the upper 3's for most of its remaining season 1 episodes. The season 1 finale perked up quite nicely to 13.65 million viewers and a 6.0/15 demo, one of the show's few 6.0+ airings.
The best of times: The best Amazing Race season ratings-wise was number 7, which averaged more than a half point higher in the demo than any other season. Only three other seasons in Race history have managed even once to hit the average of season 7. After a somewhat rocky first few years for the show, this season seemed to finally lock the show into a two-cycles-per-year pattern. And the season 7 finale was easily the highest-rated airing out of the data I have, scoring 16.01 million viewers and a 6.8/17 in the demo on 5/10/05.
The worst of times: The show dropped hard from there, with the spring 2006 cycle just a calendar year later rating so badly that CBS shifted it to Wednesday night in the middle of the cycle (using the post-NCIS slot to premiere newbie The Unit) and then to Sunday for the next one. Although the Race has been relatively consistent since the move to Sunday, it's also been the home for most of the show's weakest seasons. Spring 2011 finally saw the show drop from its typical low-3's averages into the 2's, including a mere 2.1 demo for the second episode of season 18 on 2/27/11 (against the Oscars).
Then vs. now: Most shows we've covered find themselves on a consistent downward trajectory, either starting from the very beginning or after a brief period of growth. But The Amazing Race has been a true roller coaster ride, with eight of 19 seasons building average-wise on the previous season. Its drops in season 3 caused CBS to relegate it to the summer, but the big season 5 in summer 2004 got it back on the regular season sked, then the huge season 7 in 2005 seemed to lock it in, but by spring 2006 it was dumped on Wednesday, and then by the 2007-08 season CBS was briefly back to ordering only one cycle per season. The show finally found some stability on Sunday nights, with several seasons in a row since that move finishing in the low to mid 3's. In the last couple years, the show's taken a clear downturn, but it's also remained the bright spot an otherwise demo-challenged evening for CBS.
Season adults 18-49 lows/averages/highs:
|1||Fall 2001||Wednesday 9:00||3.6||4.2||6.0||detail|
|4||Summer 2003||Thursday 8:00||2.8||3.2||3.7||detail|
|5||Summer 2004||Tuesday 10:00||4.3||4.69||5.6||detail|
|6||Fall 2004||Tuesday 9:00||4.0||4.59||5.2||detail|
|9||Spring 2006||Tue 9:00, Wed 8:00||2.5||3.44||4.1||detail|
|10||Fall 2006||Sunday 8:00||3.3||3.75||4.1||detail|
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
*- 2012-13 A18-49+ based on the season-to-date league average; will update at season's end based on final league average
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.