Friday, August 23, 2013

Top 10 of the Last 10, Veteran Final 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.)

This week, the series finale of Top 10 of the Last 10 looks at... series finales, plus the seasons that accompany them. How far did some of the one-time megahits fall by the end? I don't have a particular series length in mind when I say "veteran" final seasons, but suffice to say I'm using that word to weed out first-year cancellations like Coupling and Rob.

Comedy Seasons
Drama Seasons
New Scripted Shows
Scripted Newbie Reach Renewals
Network Seasons
Netlet Scripted Seasons
Scripted Episodes
Scripted Newbie Cancellations
Days of the Week
Friday Scripted Seasons

Top 10 of the Last 10, Veteran Final Seasons A18-49+ A18-49
Image 10. 24 (Fox, 2009-10) 105 2.93
Maybe I shouldn't include this one since it's kind of returning next summer, but what the heck. The end of 24 wasn't announced until about two months before the finale, and there was little momentum in the run-up to the end. The series finale's 2.8 demo (100) actually went below the season average.
Image 9. King of Queens (CBS, 2006-07) 106 3.98
A sub-league average show for its previous few seasons, King of Queens saw a noticeable boost in its final episodes because CBS moved it after then-top comedy Two and a Half Men. The one-hour finale had a 5.2 demo (139).
Image 8. House (Fox, 2011-12) 107 2.54
Fox's fast-crumbling medical drama actually took its largest year-to-year drop in its final season, dropping a whooping 29%. It probably didn't help that it wasn't announced as the end until February 2012. It had a decent spike to a 2.9 (123) for the finale.
Image 7. Rules of Engagement (CBS, 2012-13) 110 2.31
Many 2012-13 final seasons got a lot more attention, but the only one to crack this list was CBS' utility player comedy, even as it took a 20%+ step down from the previous season. The 1.8 series finale on 5/20/13 (85) was actually the second lowest data point of the series.
Image 6. Frasier (NBC, 2003-04) 114 4.63
Aside from fellow Must See TV alum Friends, the final season average of Frasier was most inflated by the finale (241). Throw out that point and it's at the bottom of this list with a 102 average.
Image 5. Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2011-12) 116 2.74
Desperate Housewives came into its final season having dropped approximately 20% in each of the last three seasons, and it did it again in season eight even with the announced end. It built somewhat in the final eps, including a 3.2 finale (135).
Image 4. ER (NBC, 2008-09) 117 3.49
ER lived on through most of NBC's precipitous descent and had one of its own, shedding around 20% or more in four straight seasons. It barely even beat the league average in 2007-08. But it stopped the bleeding for its farewell tour and perked all the way back up to a 6.0 (201) for the finale.
Image 3. Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, 2004-05) 155 6.33
Like the #1 show on the list, Raymond had a shortened final season, taking nearly a two-month hiatus after February sweeps before returning for the last four airings. It had the era's second-biggest series finale, spiking to a huge 11.2 (275).
Image 2. Lost (ABC, 2009-10) 161 4.49
Though Lost had weaker peak ratings (194 in season 2) than many shows on this list, the announced end several years ahead of time helped the show hold much closer to those peak ratings. It grew to a 5.8 demo (208) for the two-hour Sunday finale.
Image 1. Friends (NBC, 2003-04) 300 12.19
Hey, one last list for Friends to dominate! The monstrous NBC Thursday anchor had fallen off a bit in each of its last couple seasons, but the enormous finale (613) helped lift this season's average to 7% ahead of the penultimate year.

Notes: I'm not sure whether I will bother trying to update these lists in the future, but one thing to keep a big eye on for 2013-14 is the final season of How I Met Your Mother, which has at least some chance to finish as the second-biggest final season we've seen. (All it probably has to do is maintain its 2012-13 raw numbers, which is tough but far from impossible.) It would be a huge disappointment if didn't finish in the top four.

The most notable series finale whose full season didn't make this list had to be Will and Grace, which toiled through most of its final season in the low 3's before posting a huge 8.4 finale on 5/18/06. The finale averaged a 206 A18-49+, but the season as a whole just a 94.

Just missing the list was another 2012-13 send-off, The Office (101), which had a much more impressive finale (142) than Rules.

2013-14 Update: A great final season from How I Met Your Mother (180) put it at a comfortable number two on this list, ahead of both Lost (161) and Everybody Loves Raymond (155) and behind only Friends (300). There are tons of announced final seasons for 2014-15; the one probably most worth watching for this list is Two and a Half Men.


Spot said...

Interesting that this top 10 list is neatly divided with sitcoms and dramas taking 5 spots apiece. I would have thought sitcoms would be more prevalent here.

You could define "veteran" as a show with a 4+ season run similar to the main criteria for being War of 18-49 eligible.

Spot said...

It actually surprises me that only 3 show's final seasons clocked in at over 120 in A18-19+. I guess for the most part the networks do try to wring as much juice out of a hit show as absolutely possible. A little disappointing that most of the time shows that were big in the day go out with such a relative fizzle.

Spot said...

Interesting list and cool to see Lost so high up. Rules being so high it's also a shocker IMO

Spot said...

a good one! :)

I think HIMYM has a chance be one of these rare cases when the series finale is a series high, but that depends not only on the scheduling situation, but also on how good will the season be creatively. If it's crappy, the ratings won't be as huge.

Anyway, I guess the 9th season will see over 150 A18-49+ :)

Spot said...

I think that HIMYM will be up in raw numbers this year. Look at the season finale last year. I could see the season averaging about a 3.8 with the finale going above 6.0 (especially if they somehow pair it with TBBT).

Spot said...

Great list. You should do a series finale list next!

Spot said...

Spotted, if this were a list of scripted series finales, the shows would be like this?

1. Friends 24.9 (613)
2. How I Met Your Mother 5.4 (287)
3. Everybody Loves Raymond 11.2 (275)
4. Fraisier 9.8 (241)
5. Lost 5.8 (208)
6. Will and Grace 8.4 (206)
7. ER 6.0 (201)
8. The Office 3.0 (142)
9. King of Queens 5.2 (139)
10. Desperate Housewives 3.2 (135)

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