Monday, July 23, 2012

War of 18-49 Flashback, Life (NBC, 2007-09)


Scheduling history: Aside from a few post-Heroes tryouts on Monday, Life made its home on Wednesday in season one and on Friday early in season two. It got promoted back to Wednesday for the second half of season two.

When there was hope: The premiere numbers for Life (9.95 million viewers and a 4.0 demo rating) looked pretty good in a vacuum, but they were far from the biggest story for NBC that evening. The real headline was its lead-in, fellow premiering newbie Bionic Woman, which scored 13.91 million viewers and a through-the-roof 5.7 demo rating. Both shows took a big drop in week two (Bionic to 4.1, Life to 3.0), but only Bionic continued taking huge drops from there. As Bionic coasted through the 3's and then the 2's, Life pretty much managed to stabilize in the mid-2's. By the last couple weeks in which they aired together, Life had 100% demo retention and built a touch in viewership. Both were out of episodes by early December thanks to the WGA strike. While NBC initially promised a retooling of Bionic Woman, only Life was ultimately ever seen again. Season two brought a Friday timeslot, where in four episodes it managed mid-1 demos. That was good enough for Friday to get the show a timeslot upgrade, as the network tried to get competitive on Wednesday with a crime pairing of Life and Law & Order. Soon after, NBC gave the show a full season order for season two.

When hope was lost: Life made only a small improvement on those Friday numbers in its opening weeks on Wednesday, and then they actually fell behind the Friday level once American Idol entered the mix. It had pretty much the toughest timeslot imaginable (not just Idol but also Lost and Criminal Minds) and virtually no help from lead-ins like the Knight Rider remake and megabomb reality show The Chopping Block. I can't argue with the cancellation, but as a big fan of this show I was pretty frustrated with the ridiculousness of the situation into which it was thrown. I have to wonder if NBC might have looked back on this show as something of a cautionary tale when they decided to not move promising-for-Friday Grimm into the midweek fray during the 2011-12 season. Oh well. Without the sacrifice of Life, there'd be a different Sgt. Brody on Homeland and a different Kate... Something on Fairly Legal! (You can tell I'm really stoked about the latter.)

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12007-08Wednesday 10:002.651.94.0

22008-09Fri 10:00, Wed 9:001.72-35%1.32.7

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12007-08 80 marginal1.34 57 121 121 75
22008-09 57 flop0.96 -28% 43 90 90 43

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

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