Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The War of 18-49, The Mentalist



THE MENTALIST (CBS)

Scheduling history: The first season of The Mentalist was part of a significant reinvigoration of CBS Tuesday, a night that had been fairly problematic for CBS in previous seasons. When CBS moved the show to Thursday in fall 2009, most people believed they were setting it up as the heir to CSI's Thursday 9/8c throne. Instead, The Mentalist hung in the 10:00 hour for three seasons and headed to Sunday starting in fall 2012. The short final season in 2014-15 aired five episodes on Sunday to fill The Good Wife's hiatus, then moved to Wednesday to fill Survivor's hiatus.

See (who saw) how it all began: The Mentalist began its run with an impressive 15.60 million viewers and a 3.5 demo rating on September 23, 2008, holding nearly all of its demo lead-in from NCIS (3.6). In week two, The Mentalist actually went up a tick to a 3.6 and built on NCIS.  Despite getting preempted for election coverage a couple times in its opening weeks, the show built to a 3.9 in its fifth episode on 10/28/08 and then hit 4.0 for the first time in its next ep two weeks later.

The best of times: The middle section of season one was the only time The Mentalist was ever able to break a 4.0 demo, something it pulled off on five different occasions from episodes six through 14. The biggest rating the show ever achieved was a 4.6 demo after the AFC Championship game on 1/18/09. The regularly-scheduled high was a 4.2 on 12/16/08 and 2/10/09.

The worst of times: In each of The Mentalist's three seasons on Thursday, it took a low double-digit drop, a decline a bit more steep than the league average drop. Its move to Sunday in season five brought the first significant fall, down about a third year-to-year. The ratings have often been at their worst when The Mentalist had to air after a long sports overrun, including a new low 1.1 for the second episode of the final season on 12/7/14. But it never went any lower than 1.2 the rest of the way.

Then vs. now: It really says something about the strength of the CBS crime drama machine that a show like The Mentalist ran for seven seasons and yet I think it isn't unreasonable to consider its run something of a disappointment. In two seasons paired with CSI on Thursday, the show posted ratings almost identical to those of the fading CSI, not the clearly better ratings some may have expected out of the pegged future of Thursday night. CBS never pulled the trigger on the once seemingly inevitable Mentalist move to 9/8c, and each year it felt increasingly unlikely. After three years of trickling downward, it headed for Sunday and collapsed into one of CBS' weakest shows. Just getting the season seven renewal was a surprise, but it'll be the last one. Most shows would be elated to last until season five and transition into what feels like a "phasing-out" mode. Was The Mentalist?

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12008-09Tuesday 9:003.753.34.6detail
22009-10Thursday 10:003.39-10%2.73.8detail
32010-112.91-14%2.43.4detail
42011-122.61-10%1.83.0detail
52012-13Sunday 10:001.72-34%1.42.1detailD+
62013-141.45-16%1.21.8detailC
72014-15Sun 9:00, Wed 8:001.34-8%1.11.6detailC+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12008-09 125 hit2.10 110 153 116 123
22009-10 120 solid2.03 -3% 96 135 128 114
32010-11 114 solid1.92 -5% 94 134 134 110
42011-12 110 solid1.86 -3% 76 127 119 106
52012-13 82 marginal1.38 -26% 66 100 100 81
62013-14 77 marginal1.30 -6% 64 96 85 80
72014-15 80 marginal1.34 +3% 65 95 95 77
AVERAGE:101solid
CAREER:708tentpole


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

1 comment:

Spot said...

I have to say that I'm beginning to doubt whether CBS ever truly wanted The Mentalist to take CSI:'s place for one reason: it's owned by Warner Bros, not CBS Studios. The show that replaced it on Tuesdays was a CBS show (NCIS: LA), as is the show replacing it on Thursday (Elementary). With CBS's main motivation seeming to be syndication cash from its own shows, it seems that Mentalist kind of got short shrift. It's never been a priority.

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