Monday, August 9, 2010

The War of 18-49, Two and a Half Men


Scheduling history: The first nine seasons of Two and a Half Men aired on Monday night, at 9:30 after Everybody Loves Raymond for two seasons and then as the 9/8c anchor for seven seasons. It moved to Thursday for season ten, leading out of #1 comedy The Big Bang Theory, and for season 11 it moved to the end of a two-hour comedy block at 9:30. Late in the season, CBS re-installed it as a 9/8c anchor, now on Thursday, and it remained there for the 12th and final season.

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 many years of incredible raw numbers consistency, Two and a Half Men has finally taken considerable declines in its move to Thursday. Its 2.8 against the NFL Draft in 2013 was easily a new series low at the time, but even that would've been one of the highest points in a very low-rated season 11 airing after The Crazy Ones. It got as bad as a 1.9 on 12/12/13 and 2/6/14. It hit a couple more 1.9s during the final season, but it never went lower than that aside from a 1.5 for a Thanksgiving airing on 11/27/14.

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, becoming a much more valuable show as most of the rest of primetime dropped. 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. Even "not much of an impact" felt like a big victory for a show that had to endure the big Charlie Sheen meltdown and appeared on the verge of ending entirely, but the show's move to Thursday has pretty much been a disappointment. It only had about the same A18-49+ in season ten as in its pre-Kutcher anchor years, despite airing after huge megahit The Big Bang Theory. Then came a disturbing 40% drop when it left the post-BBT slot. These sharp declines and a high price tag meant the show's end was finally announced going into season twelve, and it had a nice spike to a two-year high for the finale.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12003-04Monday 9:305.564.76.6detail
32005-06Monday 9:005.15-12%3.85.9detail
102012-13Thursday 8:303.79-24%2.84.5detailC-
112013-14Thu 9:30, Thu 9:002.27-40%1.92.9detailD+
122014-15Thursday 9:002.26-1%1.53.2detailB

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12003-04 137 hit2.31 116 163 146 163
22004-05 144 hit2.41 +5% 113 199 135 113
32005-06 127 hit2.13 -12% 94 145 126 126
42006-07 127 hit2.14 +0% 96 154 133 96
52007-08 150 big hit2.52 +18% 133 163 145 145
62008-09 170 big hit2.85 +13% 150 186 176 176
72009-10 176 big hit2.95 +4% 156 206 160 178
82010-11 176 big hit2.97 +1% 165 193 193 165
92011-12 210 megahit3.53 +19% 152 453 453 165
102012-13 180 big hit3.02 -14% 133 214 166 166
112013-14 121 solid2.03 -33% 101 154 154 111
122014-15 134 hit2.26 +11% 89 190 143 190
AVERAGE:154big hit

For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.

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