Friday, May 31, 2013

Top 10 of the Last 10, Comedy Seasons


The collective decline in Live+SD ratings makes it hard to fairly compare numbers across seasons. But with the A18-49+ stat, we have the technology! So today, I'm introducing the "Top 10 of the Last 10" lists, which will line up the last ten seasons (2003-04 thru 2012-13) and give us an idea of which shows were strongest after we set the collective decline off to the side. (I'll throw in the raw numbers too, to give a sense of how far ratings have fallen.) Today, we start with the top 10 sitcom seasons in the last decade.

Top 10 of the Last 10, Comedy Seasons A18-49+ A18-49
Image 10. Two and a Half Men (CBS, 2012-13) 180 3.79
Season two of Ashton Kutcher's stint on Men appeared doomed for a collapse, but a move to Thursday after The Big Bang Theory helped prop up the ratings. Retentionistas think Men wasn't all that special this season, so its top ten berth goes to show how huge TBBT has become.
Image 9. 2 Broke Girls (CBS, 2011-12) 180 4.25
By far the closest thing we've had to a season one comedy megahit was 2 Broke Girls, which launched to a 7.1 after the ridiculously high-rated debut of Ashton Kutcher but held at a very strong level, not really showing any vulnerability till The Voice showed up in February.
Image 8. Will and Grace (NBC, 2003-04) 186 7.53
How important was the Friends halo to Must See TV? Will and Grace made this list in Friends' final season, but it dropped about 40% in the following season, then actually went below the league average in its 2005-06 final season.
Image 7. The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 2009-10) 188 5.26
Big Bang's first stint as the top scripted show on TV came when CBS moved it after Two and a Half Men in fall 2009. It turned out to be just a one-year "power hour," as Big Bang headed for eventual bigger and better things on Thursday starting the next season.
Image 6. Modern Family (ABC, 2012-13) 201 4.23
Though Modern Family came back to earth a bit from its 2011-12 numbers, it did narrowly hold onto its megahit status in a season that was ugly for many a program.
Image 5. Two and a Half Men (CBS, 2011-12) 210 4.96
Season nine of Two and a Half Men started off introing Ashton Kutcher with an astonishing-for-2011 number: a 10.7 demo. It ended dropping behind two other megahit comedies in season average. Still, this should go down as the zenith of the biggest sitcom of the late-aughts comedy depression.
Image 4. The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 2011-12) 210 4.97
While Two and a Half Men was adding Ashton Kutcher and Modern Family was adding another truckload of Emmys, Big Bang was breaking through in a far less glamorous way: thanks to syndication exposure on TBS.
Image 3. Modern Family (ABC, 2011-12) 214 5.05
Two and a Half Men's explosion was the big headline maker of premiere week 2011, but Modern Family scored its second straight Emmy the night before, then found its own series high (6.1) on Wednesday. When the dust settled, Modern narrowly held the sitcom average crown in the year of the sitcom.
Image 2. The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 2012-13) 249 5.25
Though its 2011-12 average ended about on par with 2.5 Men and Modern Family, by season's end it was clear which show was hottest. And Big Bang backed it up by leaving them in the dust in 2012-13, growing 6% in a year generally marked by steep broadcast declines.
Image 1. Friends (NBC, 2003-04) 300 12.19
It's worth noting Friends would've been much closer to the pack (roughly a 261) if you throw out the series finale, a double-length ep averaging an unbelievably enormous 24.9 demo rating. But the final season remained a behemoth, consistently hitting double-digit demos in the last half of the final season.

Notes: This is one of several lists that's heavily concentrated in a certain part of the ten-year period. I figured starting with one leaning toward the last couple years would start us off on a less depressing note. Nine of the 10 seasons listed here come from either 2003-04, 2011-12 or 2012-13. So what of the seven-year gap in between? The top comedy by season, starting with 2004-05: Everybody Loves Raymond (155), Two and a Half Men (127), Two and a Half Men (128), Two and a Half Men (151), Two and a Half Men (171), The Big Bang Theory (188), Two and a Half Men (177).

2013-14 Update: Once again, The Big Bang Theory (269) checked in with the new biggest sitcom season since Friends, putting it at #2 over the last eleven years. And a declining Modern Family (188) was still good enough, tying for #8 on the new list. The final season of How I Met Your Mother (180) was the show's biggest season ever, but it's in a three-way tie for #11 on the new list.

9 comments:

Spot said...

Ooh, this is fascinating. I'm surprised that 2 Broke Girls' first season is bigger than Modern Family's 1st 2. And it's amazing how big this season's BBT is even in raw 18-49 numbers compared to all the other post-Friends shows. I forgot that in its timeslot after 2.5 Men it actually beat 2.5 Men.

Spot said...

CBS clearly kept the comedy lights on between 2004 and 2010. And minus Modern Family the Eye is still doing the job today and probably in the future as they finally pulled the trigger on another 4-sitcom block. I'm hoping Mork & Buffy (more conventionally called The Crazy Ones) joins this list in the future.

Spot said...

Wow, FOX has been completely out of the sitcom game!

Spot said...

Any theories on why comedy was so weak between 2004-05 and 2010-11? Two seasons in a row, TAAHM was the #1 comedy at barely even "hit" status.

Spot said...

Fascinating stuff! Cannot wait to see the drama one!

Spot said...

I'm guessing this will be the top five:

1. Desperate Housewives (2004-05, 263)
2. Grey's Anatomy (2006-07, 251)
3. ER (2003-04, 250)
4. Desperate Housewives (2005-06, 248)
5. CSI (2004-05, 245)

Spot said...

I don't follow ratings for long enough to be able to guess but that sounds like a good one to me for what is worth!

Spot said...

I've been thinking about that, and the only reason I can think of is the advance of reality programming. Think about it–Idol & DWTS at their peaks, Survivor post-peak, and The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, etc. still threats to contend with. That was A) taking up real estate and B) being huge competition. The realities are also in 8-10 pm, prime comedy time. They couldn't escape to 10 pm like dramas could! I also think poor foundations on the part of ABC, Fox, and NBC didn't help. (Fox & NBC STILL have poor foundations for nurturing new comedy hits)

Spot said...

Good points, especially the 10:00 thing. I would add that I think ABC's huge 2004 drama class, plus the CSI trio peaking around that same time, led the networks to stock up on imitation dramas over the next few years. Combine that with comedy tentpoles like Friends and Raymond retiring, and the drama game looked more appealing.

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