It's time for my fifth annual look back at the year's top 10 moments in TV ratings! As always, the criteria are pretty subjective, but I go for a blend of 1) relatively isolated incidents that are impressive for their sheer enormity/cultural impact and 2) moments that exemplify much larger trends in TV this year. The headlines link back to writings on these moments at the time they happened. Enjoy, please let me know about my most egregious rankings/omissions, and check out the first post from yesterday. Happy New Year!
Here are the previous years:
2010: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2011: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2012: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2013: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
5. The Walking Dead Does It Again (October 12)
Kinda like the Super Bowl, The Walking Dead is a victim of its own success from a "moment" standpoint. It's left all other entertainment series so far behind in the dust that there's not a lot of storyline intrigue; there are no fair comparisons left. But at these numbers, even a 6% year-to-year growth (to an
8.65 rating) is a new level of unprecedented hugeness, likely over five times the big four's original average. I said at the time
that this could finally be the last TWD high note before the
waning begins, but the second half of the fall season was actually up
much more year-to-year than the first half. So stay tuned...
4. Crossovers Fuel Opening Sunday Surges (September 28)
of the biggest surprises of a new TV season come from new series, since
there's no track record from which to create an expectation. But on
Premiere Sunday, it was a bunch of veterans that stole the show. On this
night, Fox's animated series were most stunning, including a The Simpsons crossover that vaulted the Family Guy premiere's ratings (4.6) by an absurd seventy-seven percent year-to-year. But the introduction of Frozen characters on ABC's Once Upon a Time
(3.5, up 35% year-to-year) was just about as eye-popping and ultimately
a far bigger deal over the long term. That series remained on the
year-to-year upside until the end of the fall.
3. The Following is the First Limited Series Fumble (January 27)
biggest new hit of the 2012-13 season returned in January 2014 at
series high levels after the NFC Championship game, but it
returned to its regular timeslot just a week later at a new series low 2.0 and dropped
another 30% by the second half of the season. It was a legitimate surprise, but it ranks so highly here because it proved to be the start of 2014's most unfortunate ratings trends. First, the "limited
series" that had been the hot thing in 2013 all had huge sophomore
slumps, returning at or very near new lows and quickly going way below.
And second, there was the general demise of the Fox network. The Following's struggles came alongside another huge drop for American Idol, and then came a fall schedule laden with bombs like Utopia, Gracepoint and Mulaney.
2. The Flash Starts Very Fast (October 7)
The CW has been making a gradual return to 18-49 ratings respectability over the last few years, and it finally got its truly signature moment with this fall's premiere of The Flash. At a 1.9 rating, The Flash
was easily the biggest historical-adjusted episode in network history,
and DC Comics wants me to inform you that it beat that night's episode
of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD on ABC. Great as that moment was, The Flash
also had the legs to become a true game-changer for the CDub; it's
settled at only about 20% below that premiere number, and a crossover a couple months later sparked fellow DC series Arrow to a new high.
1. A Three-Hour Shonda Rhimes Empire is Born (September 25)
At #1, it's the genesis of 2014's biggest triumph in entertainment programming, a trio of ABC Thursday dramas that obliterated almost all entertainment competitors in their paths. It's wild that Scandal (3.8) hit a new series high yet was probably just the third-biggest win in this block. Grey's Anatomy (3.1) moved almost seamlessly to 8/7c and became a gigantic improvement in a historically incompetent hour for ABC, while 10/9c newbie How to Get Away with Murder (3.8) matched the huge Scandal demo, grew noticeably in total viewers, and has stayed very close to Scandal's ratings over the course of the fall. It's not impossible that these could end up being the top three dramas on all of broadcast by season's end.