A Massive Start Derailed by Baseball
New Girl can't be called the biggest breakthrough of the 2011 premiere week, not when Ashton Kutcher was posting a 10.7 demo rating on Two and a Half Men the night before. But in terms of sheer surprise factor, the premiere of New Girl was not far behind, one of the biggest shows of initial interest in a comedy in recent memory. It opened with 10.28 million viewers and a massive 4.8 demo rating, building big on its 4.0 lead-in from Glee. It followed this up with a very promising post-premiere hold, taking a single-digit drop to 4.5 in week two and another small drop to 4.3 in week three. It looked like there was true potential for a smash here.
And then... the show disappeared for a month. Great as New Girl had been doing, Fox had a much more expensive gamble on Wednesday/Thursday in the new reality series The X Factor. A long baseball interruption meant not everything could keep the lights on through October, and Fox opted to keep running The X Factor by giving it some Tuesday airings. New Girl returned on November 1 with a 3.6, down over 15% from its previous airing, and it would never sniff at those early heights again.
An Ill-Fated Comedy Centerpiece
New Girl held onto mid-3 ratings for the next nine episodes or so, but eventually it headed down alongside its Glee lead-in, through the low 3's and the 2's to end season one. With Glee clearly past its prime, Fox decided New Girl was the more promising Tuesday piece going forward and tried building a two-hour comedy block around it.
New Girl quickly dropped into the low 2's early in season two, surrounded by newbies Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project that could never really attract much interest. Once again, it could never recover the audience lost in those weeks, even as the 8:00 hour was improved the next season with newbie Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Since the fall 2012 comedy night's failure, Fox has been only occasionally committed to a two-hour Tuesday comedy block. A pairing with Hell's Kitchen late in season two went all right, but later New Girl companions have been far worse. In February 2014, the network tried to rekindle the once-potent pairing between Glee and New Girl, but Glee was so beaten down at this point that it was an utter disaster for all involved. The nightmare only continued early in season four as New Girl had to lead out of reality flop Utopia. The late fall and winter finally brought an overachieving companion to New Girl in the reality series MasterChef Junior, which helped New Girl considerably reduce the year-to-year decline across the second half of season four.
The ad rates have always suggested that New Girl is a much more valuable show than its 18-49 ratings suggest, and it's never gotten into truly awful territory even in 18-49 ratings. But they were low enough in season four that New Girl missed out on the fall schedule for season five. However, it held up quite well in more difficult situations in season five. As much of Fox has collapsed around it, New Girl will return to the fall sked for season six.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.