Friday, June 7, 2013

Top 10 of the Last 10, Drama 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! Enter 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, the top 10 drama seasons of the last decade. Five different shows make the cut, and two shows put three seasons apiece on the list!

Comedy Seasons

Top 10 of the Last 10, Drama Seasons A18-49+ A18-49
Image 10. House (Fox, 2007-08) 215 7.05
It's funny that House's only time on this list was the first season in which it didn't get a big American Idol assist, airing just three post-Idol eps. But it was easily House's strongest fall run (consistently hitting a 7.0+ demo), and the depressed league average due to the writer's strike pushed this narrowly ahead of 2006-07.
Image 9. Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2007-08) 218 7.16
Like House, Grey's last megahit season was in the writer's strike year. Unlike House, the year-to-year leakage was already evident even before the strike hit... but the 3.5 month hiatus certainly didn't help.
Image 8. CSI (CBS, 2005-06) 223 9.08
This was CSI's last season of relatively unchecked dominance on Thursday, as NBC was fading and ABC and Fox still hadn't gotten their Thursday acts together. But CSI still dropped off by nearly a point from its 2004-05 average.
Image 7. Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2005-06) 224 9.13
The second and final Sunday season of Grey's saw the show retaining Desperate's demo at about a two-thirds clip at the beginning, but a Super Bowl bounce had it consistently building on DH by the end. This two-hour block was too strong not to extend to another night.
Image 6. CSI (CBS, 2003-04) 233 9.47
Entering the A18-49+ era, CBS' procedural was firmly in its prime. However, this wasn't one of its most special seasons largely because competing NBC was still so potent, first with Will and Grace (186) and then with the enormous first season of The Apprentice (241).
Image 5. CSI (CBS, 2004-05) 245 9.95
But CSI returned to just about its peak average the next season as NBC's Thursday lineup showed cracks in the first post-Friends season. The Apprentice (184/158) was already beginning to look a little vulnerable.
Image 4. Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2005-06) 248 10.09
Desperate Housewives began season two on a long string of double-digit ratings, and it continued through the entire fall. By season's end, it was clearly beginning to fade, but the sensational fall kept this season close to season one's average.
Image 3. ER (NBC, 2003-04) 250 10.14
The Must See Thursday 10:00 show had been trickling down even in the last seasons of Friends' reign on the night, but as of 2003-04 it was still quite a beast. The significant drops wouldn't come until the post-Friends years.
Image 2. Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2006-07) 251 9.38
This was the season that changed Thursday night forever. Grey's Anatomy didn't just hold up in its bold season three move to Thursday, it actually grew a little more, and it knocked competing behemoth CSI down by 24%.
Image 1. Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-05) 263 10.66
The 8.9 series premiere for Desperate Housewives was spectacular. This show's out-of-the-box appeal has been unmatched by any recent scripted show. But it was only just getting started; by November, it was into the double digits, and by February it was in double digits every week.

Notes: Once again, we're very concentrated in a specific few years, namely the first half of the ten-year period. The top broadcast dramas have been much lower in the last five years, even after accounting for the collective entertainment decline: Grey's Anatomy (192), House (174), Glee (175), NCIS (159) and NCIS (159). Is the megahit broadcast drama dead? There certainly doesn't appear to be any candidate on the immediate horizon.

I'm keeping this to broadcast dramas, since A18-49+ is derived from and mostly meant for broadcast ratings, but this season of The Walking Dead was a true phenomenon, placing right around Housewives' season one average (252 in the fall + 274 in the spring). If there's ever a cable version of A18-49+, TWD would surely do even better in that metric.

2013-14 Update: As has been usual of late, nothing on broadcast was even within fifty points of making the cut. Scandal (162) took over as the #1 broadcast drama and was a bit stronger than the #1 drama of the previous two seasons (NCIS, which topped b'cast with a 159 in 2011-12 and 2012-13)). It's now been six years since the last megahit drama on broadcast.

Cable is another story, as another mind-blowing season of The Walking Dead (351 fall, 367 spring) would've absolutely destroyed everything on the list. And while Game of Thrones (194) would've been about 20 points shy, it continues to trend sharply in the positive direction.

1 comment:

Spot said...

Most shocking thing from this list, IMO, are those walking dead numbers! Gosh!

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