LAW & ORDER: CI (NBC/USA)
Why post this on Sunday? Law & Order: Criminal Intent aired its first 5 seasons on Sunday nights on NBC, and it has aired the majority of its USA Network original episodes on Sunday.
See (who saw) how it all began: Law & Order: CI kicked off on 9/30/01 with 12.7 million viewers and 4.4 demo (preliminary), a pretty modest start for a spinoff of the franchise. It dropped to a somewhat alarming 3.5 demo in week 2 but then bounced back in week 3 to a (preliminary) 5.1, and then it hit what I have as the season high when it got a special Wednesday airing on 10/17/01 and found 19.32 million viewers and a 6.8/18 in the demo.
The best of times: According to what data I have, it never got higher than the aforementioned special Wednesday airing which got a 6.8. The only other time I have it at a 6.0+ was the season 2 finale on 5/18/03, which pulled an even 6.0. Season 2 was the strongest season in general, as it was the only one that broke the 5.0 threshold with much frequency.
The worst of times: The show declined into the 3's by season 5, prompting NBC to move it to Tuesday nights and pair it with stronger L&O spinoff SVU. It started pretty well there, but once House showed up in the timeslot, it was downhill into the 2's, including a mere 2.0 demo on 5/8/07. This caused NBC to axe the show, but it got picked up by USA Network to bolster their syndication package. Since its arrival, several other originals on the net have comfortably outshone it. Season nine (the only full season without Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe) managed just a 0.88 average, making it one of USA's weakest originals. It got as low as a 0.7 demo on 6/29/10.
Then vs. now: This is another one of those shows that has probably stayed alive past what you'd think of as its conventional shelf life, joining other syndication survivors like 'Til Death, Scrubs, and According to Jim, so the comparative numbers look pretty ugly, with the most recent season averaging only barely over about a fifth of what the peak season (2) got. In this case, a lot of that is because of the cable move. The two actors that really made the show for me, Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, left at the beginning of season 9, and the show plummeted to its lowest levels yet. The return of D'Onofrio and Erbe for one short final season brought a ratings rebound, but the show still didn't rank highly on the USA totem pole. I think most broadcast refugees are probably expected to do that.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
|7||2007-08||USA, Thu 9:00, Sun 9:00||1.1||1.4||1.7||15/22|
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.