Scheduling history: With the exception of two special Thursday episodes at the end of season one, all of Chuck's episodes in seasons 1-4 aired on Monday. That changed in fall 2011 as it moves to Friday at 8/7c for its final season.
See (who saw) how it all began: Chuck premiered on 9/24/07 to 9.21 million viewers and a 3.6 adults 18-49 rating, and both of those stats remain series highs to this day. While that paled in comparison to its Monday lead-out Heroes (which had a 6.5 demo on that same night), it was still a decent enough start. The show dropped 11% to a 3.2 demo in week two, then another half-point in week three to a 2.7, but from there it rallied and spent most of its first season steady around a 3.0.
The best of times: The best of times was definitely season 1, with the series premiere's 3.6 demo still unmatched and eight of the show's nine 3.0+ episodes coming in that season. The only other time Chuck has broken a 3.0 demo was in its heavily promoted day-after-the-Super-Bowl episode on 2/2/09.
The worst of times: Since season 1, Chuck has dropped every year, and usually by a lot. The final season on Friday by far Chuck's worst, as the show dropped by more than 40% in that transition. For most of the season, the show struggled to even break a 1.0 demo. The series low was a 0.8 demo on 12/30/11, part of the least-viewed week of the regular season.
Then vs. now: Chuck may well be the show that was most closely tied to the Internet. Many Internet personalities owe a lot of their popularity to the show's rabid fanbase, and Chuck haters lamented that this show got such a ridiculous amount of Internet buzz without any of it translating to ratings. Personally, I think the ratings have helped create a lot of the buzz. It was the epitome of "bubble show," and it's when the ratings are a close call that people tend to feel they have the most ability to make an impact. Chuck's ratings have been so continuously close to the line between renewal and cancellation that they invite considerable scrutiny. People lived and died by the smallest of week-to-week fluctuations (which probably didn't matter that much). And of course, what made the show a long-lasting Internet sensation is that it kept finding a way to get renewed. For its first three years, it produced OK ratings leading off a very tough night for a very troubled network, and I could see where NBC was coming from in keeping it around. I think 2010-11 was the first year that Chuck tipped into "definitely deserves to get axed" territory, but NBC threw its fans one last bone by giving it a 13-episode final season on Friday. It did not reward NBC in any sense from a ratings standpoint.
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.