Check out the list of all 16 A18-49+ recaps at the bottom of this page!
Defining Shows/Overall Thoughts:
2011-12 was one of the great shake-up seasons in the last decade of broadcast primetime. Some chinks finally began to appear in the armor that was Fox's half-decade of completely unchecked dominance. Long-irrelevant NBC finally found a program that could get it at least somewhat back in the game. And after three straight years without a megahit scripted program, and seven straight without a megahit sitcom, the comedy finally burst back onto the scene in a big way.
It all started on the first day of the regular season, when CBS pulled off an unthinkable solution to Two and a Half Men's Charlie Sheen problem from the prior season. They replaced him with Ashton Kutcher and saw the program hit its highest raw ratings ever on that premiere night; and it was the biggest relative episode (A18-49+) of any scripted series since the Friends finale over seven years before. Though that Two and a Half Men surge (ultimately a 178 -> 210 comparing full seasons) was the big headline maker, you could argue the more impressive CBS stories came from other anchor comedies. Both How I Met Your Mother (134 -> 172) and The Big Bang Theory (159 -> 210) took huge steps up, and2 Broke Girls (180) was one of the biggest new series in years. Throw in NCIS (159) becoming TV's top drama and it all added up to CBS taking a big step up in network average. They were as close to Fox as anyone had been in seven years.
As for Fox, their season certainly started well enough. The huge 4.8 premiere of New Girl was the moment that really solidified the comedy comeback. And it ended up being one of Fox's strongest live action comedies in recent years (137). But it was never quite the same after a month-long baseball hiatus. Meanwhile, the newbies with much more hype were disappointments, from Monday drama Terra Nova (105) to the American Idol-lite The X Factor (161/152). Even if it disappointed relative to expectations, X still made Fox a major force in the fall, but the downside was realized months later when American Idol (226/207) took its first truly significant dip in show history. And Fox's drama department was falling apart; Glee (175 -> 128) took a huge step down, House (142 -> 107) left the airwaves entirely, and newbies like the aforementioned Terra Nova, Alcatraz (92) and The Finder (72) couldn't even get to season two.
ABC continued its sloooow post-writers' strike deterioration, mostly because of the fall of Dancing with the Stars (171/150 -> 139/130 in fall, 184/144 -> 126/113 in spring), but Modern Family (214) emerged as TV's top scripted program, and they had one of their best new show classes. Once Upon a Time (139) provided some major rejuvenation to the stale ABC Sunday, Revenge (104) was a surprise decent player in the long-troubled Wednesday 10/9c hour, Suburgatory (110) proved a great companion to The Middle, and Last Man Standing (102) brought a little life to ABC Tuesday.
Meanwhile on lowly NBC, they planted the seed for what would be a noticeable surge the next season by producing a strong second season of their April 2011 newbie The Voice (204/153), which launched huge after the Super Bowl. However, they didn't go up at all as a network in 2011-12 because they were an even bigger disaster than ever on almost all other fronts. Their only respectable shows for most of the last half-decade, The Biggest Loser (108 -> 93 fall, 113 -> 92 spring) and a post-Steve Carell The Office (148 -> 117) had suddenly run out of steam, and an expanded edition of holiday filler The Sing-Off (114 -> 66) really backfired in the fall. Until The Voice came back, you could argue the only remotely positive story on the entire network was the Friday launch of Grimm (65).
Big Hits: 2 Broke Girls (180)
Hits: Rob (140), Once Upon a Time (139), New Girl (137)
Solid: Person of Interest (122), Suburgatory (110), Napoleon Dynamite (110), Terra Nova (105), Revenge (104), Last Man Standing (102)
Sub-solid renewals: Apartment 23 (99), Smash (96), Unforgettable (95), Touch (94), Scandal (85), Whitney (79), Up All Night (79), Grimm (65)
Renews by network: ABC 6, NBC 4, CBS 3, Fox 2
By the big hit/hit/solid/flop standards, this looked like the best season for new shows out of at least the last six, but the gap with 2009-10 considerably narrowed in the last month of the season as Apartment 23 and Smash and Touch all dropped sub-solid. The hit/solid percentages are about on par with the great 2009-10 season, but there were noticeably fewer flops than in any other season. And this doesn't even count the 42.5 hours of new unscripted big hit The X Factor. In sum, the gap between the new shows and the veterans was historically small this season. Was that about a great development season or a bad season for returning shows? I think both were true, really.
Obviously there is still much to be written about the longevity of this class, but a slew of sophomore slumps suggest this will likely end up making less impact than the 2009-10 class.
While the collective big four had one of its healthiest recent years, the CW was quietly having what I would call the worst season for any network in the last decade. (And it's not really even that close.) Their league average dropped -27% in this season! (Only four other network seasons have even gone -18% or more, and three of those were 2007-08 writers' strike situations.)
This CW meltdown was keyed by the biggest shows; Friday anchor Smallville left the airwaves, while America's Next Top Model's two cycles were down a staggering 35% and 46% year-to-year. There were plenty of other bad returnee stories from Gossip Girl (-32%) to Supernatural (-26%) to 90210 (-20%), and seemingly decent bet newbies like Ringer (26) and The Secret Circle (33) disappointed as well.
Days of the Week:
Comedies + The Voice = a major resurgence in broadcast ratings on Monday night, while the major problems on Tuesday and Sunday became quite evident this season. Thursday also had a bad year even with CBS' The Big Bang Theory surging, thanks to the big drops from American Idol and The Office, plus the continued slow weakening of ABC Thursday.
Time of Day:
*- I don't have the half-hour breakdowns entered for 2006-07 thru 2009-10, so for now I will break these seasons down by hour rather than by half-hour. They'll probably be a bit off, since two-hour telecasts won't be broken out exactly right, but they're close enough to get a good general idea by hour.
Repeats & Sports/Specials:
2001-02 | 2002-03 | 2003-04 | 2004-05 | 2005-06 | 2006-07 | 2007-08 | 2008-09 | 2009-10 | 2010-11 | 2011-12 | 2012-13 | 2013-14 | 2014-15