JERSEY SHORE (MTV)
Scheduling history: All but three of Jersey Shore's episodes have aired on Thursday.
See (who saw) how it all began: Only about three years ago, some little show called Jersey Shore quietly premiered on MTV to just 1.38 million viewers and a 0.8 demo rating on 12/3/09. I guess those numbers weren't that bad at the time, but it seems almost unfathomable that the show could've been below a 1.0 demo so recently. The rise to phenomenon began with episode two, as the show went up to a 1.1, then to a 1.4 in week three. Seven weeks after that 0.8 premiere, the season one finale was over three times as big - a 2.6 demo (and 4.83 million viewers) on 1/21/10.
The best of times: Jersey Shore's peak was in the first half of season three. The second episode of that season kicked off a five-episode run across which the show broke a 4.4 demo four times. (The only exception was the 3.9 demo for its special Monday airing, which MTV used to help launch Skins.) In the middle of that run came what remains the series high point, the 8.87 million viewers and 4.7 demo on 1/20/11.
The worst of times: Jersey Shore's "worst of times" ratings-wise came right at the beginning and right at the end. The series low came when MTV aired an episode on New Year's Eve 2009, always one of the year's lowest-viewing evenings. The show posted just 1.30 million viewers and a 0.6 demo on that night. Easily the show's weakest performance under "normal" circumstances was the aforementioned series premiere on 12/3/09. But the show nearly came full circle in season six, stabilizing with merely mid-1's demos for much of the season but getting as low as a 1.2 for the penultimate episode on 12/6/12.
Then vs. now: Most of these buzz-driven cultural phenomena simply don't last as ratings monsters for years on end, and this show had that "flash-in-the-pan" quality as much as anything in recent memory. It's hard to believe that the entire run of arguably the first show to truly shatter the broadcast vs. cable mold took place over almost exactly three calendar years: December 3, 2009 thru December 13, 2012. And MTV did a remarkable job of seeing it coming, axing the show at the end of August 2012 - over a month before the final season premiered. By the time the Shore ended, something else on basic cable (The Walking Dead) had surpassed even its peak ratings, but this will still go down as one of the first truly unqualified broadcast-sized hits on basic cable.
Season adults 18-49 lows/averages/highs:
|1||Fall 2009||Thursday 10:00||1.51||0.6||2.6|
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.