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 now live top five. 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
10. The Nielsen Glitch (October 10)
I didn't really like any of my last few choices (but I'm sure someone will come up with an omission that I will really wish I'd gone with). So I'm going with something a little off-color: Nielsen's early October announcement that they had been screwing up ratings since March, assigning certain pockets of viewership to the wrong programs. It didn't exactly change the face of ratings as we knew them; most early-season ABC ratings came down by about a tenth of a point, and a small selection of non-ABC shows went up a tenth or two. But it was another unfortunate PR hit for a company that the media and TV fans rarely hesitate to slam.
9. Gotham and Scorpion Impress on Opening Monday (September 22)
Every year, at least one moment makes the list simply for the sheer glut of stuff going on, and the first day of the new TV season gets that honor this year. CBS' new football package briefly bumped The Big Bang Theory to Monday, while Fox refused to premiere its own lineup before premiere week. Throw in a The Voice premiere and Monday Night Football and there was quite the epic convergence. New dramas Gotham (3.3) and Scorpion (3.2) were not exactly huge surprises, but the strong numbers against all this competition set them up as two of the biggest newbie successes of the fall.
8. Resurrection Brings Broadcast Sunday Back to Life (March 9)
If this were a sheer "wow factor" list, the premiere of Resurrection (3.8) likely cracks the top three. The concept of loved ones returning from the dead attracted one of the season's top premiere audiences despite airing in a struggling ABC Sunday lineup with only decent lead-in support. And it came against another respectable premiere on Fox, the science documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2.1). However, I find myself rather biased against this moment because of how spectacularly Resurrection has flamed out this fall, and Cosmos was a one-and-done deal anyway. It's funny that people were calling Resurrection the last hope for ABC head Paul Lee, and he's gone on to reverse many of the network's misfortunes without its help.
7. Record Super Bowl Viewership Despite Blowout (February 2)
We all know it will be enormous, so there's usually not a ton of storyline intrigue with Super Bowl ratings. But I can never bring myself to exclude the Most-Watched Event in American Television History (112.19 million viewers). This one was interesting because the game was decided by the opening moments of the second half, leading to a lot of social media talk about how thoroughly the ratings would tank. The fact that it still set a new viewership record was another reminder that "game quality" is not nearly as important in the NFL as people think. (Not that it won't stop the same chatter around the next NFL blowout!)
6. How I Met Your Mother Ends on a New Series High (March 31)
While not quite the zero-to-sixty explosion that was the final Breaking Bad run in 2013, the end of the line for How I Met Your Mother was still something to behold. The final season was the largest of HIMYM's nine-season run after adjusting for the collective entertainment programming decline, nearly doubling those first couple seasons on the bubble in the mid-aughts. For the finale, such an adjustment wasn't even needed; the final hour had the highest raw Live+SD rating (5.4) in a 208-episode run. This was quite an achievement for a series that's aired for so long on a high-awareness broadcast network.