TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS)
Scheduling history: The entire 201-episode run of Two and a Half Men has aired on Monday night, at 9:30 after Everybody Loves Raymond for two seasons and then as the 9/8c anchor for seven seasons.
See (who saw) how it all began: Two and a Half Men debuted with 18.44 million viewers and a 5.9/14 in the demo on 9/22/03. It dipped a relatively typical 15% in week two to a 5.0 demo, then down another couple ticks to a 4.8 in week three, but then turned around and headed back into the 5's. But the 5.9 premiere would remain a series high for a few months, until the show finally broke into the 6's with a 6.2/15 demo on 1/12/04.
The best of times: Two and a Half Men was at its strongest by average during the first two seasons, when it benefited greatly from its substantial Everybody Loves Raymond lead-in. But I don't want to give Raymond too much credit, because at times Men would build on the show in the demo. For many years, it appeared Men's series high would always remain the 24.24 million viewers and an 8.1/18 in the demo on 5/16/05, leading out of the hugely rated Raymond series finale. Then came Charlie Sheen's meltdown, Ashton Kutcher's hiring, and the season nine premiere, which basically changed everything we thought we knew about scripted TV ratings in this decade. It scored an unthinkable 28.74 million viewers and a 10.7 demo on September 19, 2011, which was more than double any rating Men had pulled in the previous season.
The worst of times: After five years of incredible consistency, Two and a Half Men finally took a (relatively minor) downturn in the 2010-11 season. Though its fall numbers were still pretty comparable to most of the previous five years, it failed to spike during the winter period between Dancing with the Stars cycles when the show has typically broken 5.0 on a frequent basis. The show didn't even once hit that 5.0 plateau in season 8, which makes it the weakest overall. And the show dropped back below 4.0 on a fairly consistent basis in the back half of season 9. The series low remains the 3.6 for a special 8:30 airing on 5/14/07, though it was tied by a regular airing on 4/9/12.
Then vs. now: Was there a scripted show more consistent across the second half of the aughts than Two and a Half Men? Not that I've seen. It took a noticeable (if still not big) dip after losing the Raymond lead-in, but then it settled in right around a 5.0 demo for the next five years. It moved down a notch in season 8, but the Ashton Kutcher hiring changed everything and sent it into megahit territory for the first time. Despite the huge early ratings inflation, by season's end there was not much of an impact year-to-year. But even "not much of an impact" feels like a big victory for a show that had to endure the big Charlie Sheen meltdown and appeared on the verge of ending entirely. Now the show heads to Thursday in what people are (I think incorrectly) calling an attempt to "protect" Two and a Half Men. Networks are not really in the business of protecting tenth-year programs. I think they primarily made the move to protect promising young drama Person of Interest, which will lead out of Men in the fall.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
|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.