Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2010, 5 to 1

Back with the top half of the top 10 TV ratings moments of 2010. The first half went up yesterday.

Let the controversy begin...! If there's any particularly notable ratings result I missed, let me know. I'm open to there being a truly cataclysmic event that I forgot about. Maybe if I do this next year, I'll have a nice archive of Five-Spots to look back on so I won't miss anything big. Here goes:

5. The Walking Dead premiere (October 31) - I talked about shattering the network's glass ceiling with Hot in Cleveland yesterday, and The Walking Dead did it in an even bigger way for AMC. Its 2.7 A18-49 premiere on Halloween night was triple the highest rating ever for either of AMC's Emmy-laden originals Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Perhaps even more amazing was that it held almost all of that number in subsequent weeks, then actually grew as high as a 3.0 for the finale.

4. Lone Star premiere (September 20) - One thing I've noticed about the "critics vs. ratings" issue is that nobody has any long term memory. In a Glee/Modern Family year, everybody's all like, "The cream really does rise to the top!" The putrid 1.3 demo for Lone Star's premiere (out of a 4.0 House lead-in) ensured this would be an "America's too dumb for quality TV!" year. (Or, if you're more populist, a "Critics are clueless!" year.) Other critical fave flops like Terriers and Rubicon on cable didn't hurt that mindset either.

3. Undercover Boss post-Super Bowl (February 7) - CBS' decision to put the Boss after the Super Bowl was pretty controversial at the time. It bucked the recent trend of avoiding series premieres in the high-profile slot, and it robbed plenty of scripted faves of the opportunity. But the show soared, with its whooping 38.65 million viewers and 16.2 A18-49 about on par with the huge numbers posted by the memorable Grey's Anatomy post-SB ep in 2006. The show then became a solid CBS Sunday option.

2. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien finale (January 22) - The biggest TV story of the 2009-10 season was definitely the Leno/Conan turmoil which overhauled NBC primetime and late night. The peak of the ratings intrigue was Conan's memorable final week on Tonight, including over ten million viewers and a 4.4 A18-49 for his Friday finale. The ratings build and Internet fanbase made him one of 2010's big-time free agents - right up there with LeBron! Then his TBS debut many months later scored a 2.5 A18-49.

1. Super Bowl XLIV (February 7) - I actually considered putting this a little lower on the list, since the Super Bowl getting huge ratings is never much of a surprise. But I guess at some point "most-watched event on American TV evah" has got to take precedence, especially in this age when the audience is so fragmented that the heights of previous years are usually never remotely approached. The Saints/Colts thriller was seen by 106.48 million viewers and scored a 38.6 adults 18-49 rating.

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