Tomorrow (or maybe Saturday) will mark the triumphant return of my "Demos Year-to-Year" posts for another four weeks! It's the closest thing I have to a daily post about ratings, since I'm generally more of a "big picture" guy than a week-to-week fluctuations guy.
One big picture I haven't looked too much at is how all the returning shows are doing. I've said a lot about the new shows, and so has everyone else, and that's largely because on the week-to-week basis they are most interesting. We'll look at pretty much everything once "Demos Year-to-Year" gets going, but here's a big picture look at a few of those returnees whose pre-sweeps ratings have stuck out to me.
House. A strike against resolving sexual tension? The big news for Fox Mondays out of the gate was the colossal failure of newbie Lone Star, and because of that I think many people haven't realized just how down House has been. Its first five hours of 2010-11 are down a pretty staggering 36% from the first five hours of last year. A lot of that comparison is wrapped up in the massive 6.7 demo the two-hour premiere scored last year, but even recent episodes have been down well over 20% on a year-to-year basis. To keep it in perspective, it's still one of the network's strongest shows, but steam is being lost in a hurry.
Dancing with the Stars / Castle. It's been a pretty great fall for Dancing with the Stars, up 20% vs. last fall's pre-sweeps episodes on Monday and up 18% on Tuesday. The gains aren't totally surprising considering the fall 2009 cycle was a bit of a dud, but in this climate gains are still gains. Also on the upswing is DWTS Monday lead-out Castle, whose first six eps of the fall are up 17% vs. the first six of last year. It's hard to see those big percentage gains continuing later on in the season, since both shows picked up major steam later in 2009-10, but for now we've gotta give kudos.
The Biggest Loser / Parenthood. I won't make the obligatory... ugh, can't help it. The Biggest Loser is one of the biggest losers of fall 2010. The quick decline of this normally consistent show has been pretty shocking and makes me wonder if we're finally nearing the point where NBC shrinks its current two-hour telecasts. Many fans have been saying for years that those two-hour eps are bloated, but the ratings have always more than justified keeping them that way. Now, maybe that's changing. Its first six episodes are down 28% from last fall's first six! And if the strengthened lead-in has helped Castle on Monday, the weakened one has certainly hurt Biggest Loser lead-out Parenthood, down 17% from last season's first seven eps in spring 2010.
Glee. You can say "it'll burn out quickly" all you want, and I'm not really disagreeing, but at this point in time Glee is an undeniable phenomenon. Its first five episodes of 2010-11 are up a ridiculous 57% from season 1's first five, and in raw numbers terms that means it's gone from a low 3's show to at worst an upper 4's show. Its 5.9 demo for the Britney Spears episode remains this TV season's highest-rated scripted episode. (People talk a lot about Betty White, but is there more reliable TV ratings gold than Britney Spears? Her appearance on How I Met Your Mother a few years back almost single-handedly turned that program from bubble show to hit.)
The Middle / Modern Family. A quick tip of the cap to The Middle, whose first five eps are impressively up 16% despite it moving to the lower-HUT 8:00 half-hour and now facing Survivor. But the real story of ABC Monday nights has been the rather amazing rise of Modern Family, which was last week's highest-rated scripted show and is up 29% so far from last year's first five eps. The rise of chart-topping sophomores like Glee and Modern Family only further illuminates how weak this year's crop of new shows are.
The Big Bang Theory. Most people felt a drop was inevitable in the move to Thursday at 8:00, and the question was how big it would be. Through five episodes, the answer is down 13%. It's hard to complain much about that considering the circumstances of the timeslot and considering the move opened up two large comedy lead-ins for CBS (both of which have spawned newbies that have gotten episode extensions).
30 Rock. Like Big Bang, 30 Rock has moved into a tougher situation and taken a ratings hit - 18% in this case, and that's even with the big ratings from a live episode propping up this year's numbers. The jury is still out on 30 Rock's move; the 2.6 demo of the first two episodes would be a fine number relative to expectations, and the 3.1 of the live episode was quite solid, but it's looked lately like it may ultimately be more of a low 2's show.
The Apprentice. When I wrote the linked War of 18-49 entry for The Apprentice, I prophetically asked of the show's "original recipe" version, "But have we forgotten just how rapidly this show went down the tubes?" Sadly, even I couldn't pull the trigger as I predicted the show doing a reasonable mid-2's kind of number. Instead, it's been a total embarrassment, with most of its episodes actually scoring less than a one point five demo. It's likely to finish down more than 50% from the cycle that got the original recipe version axed about three and a half years ago!
Medium / CSI: NY. If you want to know what's going on with Medium's ratings, look no further than CBS shortening its order to 13 episodes. The move to 8:00 has not panned out; it's down 37% from last year's first five episodes at 9:00, a number even worse than the ugly Ghost Whisperer year-to-year declines that got that show axed last season. And while plenty of people have played the "It's winning the night!!!" card to tout CSI: NY's Friday arrival as some sort of major victory, let's move past that BS; that was inevitable. A big drop in raw numbers was also inevitable, but couldn't the show have reasonably been expected to do better than the 46% drop it's taken vs. last year's first five eps?
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Though its declines aren't as steep as the NBC reality franchises above, Home Edition's first five eps are down 22% year-to-year, making it the biggest dropper on ABC's long-intact Sunday night. If it takes another spring dip as it did last season, you have to feel like it's in a major danger zone and that ABC can probably do better in the hour. Will Secret Millionaire, now rescheduled to briefly relieve Home Edition at midseason, be the ticket?
Undercover Boss / CSI: Miami. So Undercover Boss is down 21% from its first five eps of midseason 2010 (not counting the post-Super Bowl episode), and I'm a bonafide Undercover Boss hater, but a big drop from the post-post-Super Bowl glow was inevitable and this isn't that big of one. A show like this averaging mid to upper 3's in the demo is a cash cow. While many people have picked on Hawaii Five-0 for failing to live up to year-ago CSI: Miami numbers, there's another notable show that's failed to do that: CSI: Miami. Despite a solid Boss lead-in, the show has continued the suffering it began to experience late last season, down 32% from last year's first four episodes. Last year it became the first CSI spinoff to ever outrate the original CSI for a season, but as I predicted on CSI's War of 18-49 last year, it may well lose that crown this year.