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 will next head to Sunday in fall 2012.
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's taken a low double-digit drop, a decline a bit more steep than the league average drop. But the show has consistently been one of the strongest 10/9c programs on TV. The lowest it got on Thursday was a 2.2 demo on 4/6/12, but the original series low is a 1.8 demo it scored for a Friday tryout on 3/9/12.
Then vs. now: It really says something about the strength of the CBS crime drama machine that a show like The Mentalist is probably going to run for 6+ seasons and yet I think there are some people who will 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's bound for a Sunday night slot that has taken a big chunk out of almost everything CBS has put there. Most shows would be elated to last until season five and transition into what feels like a "phasing-out" mode. Is The Mentalist?
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.