As great as things look now, it's easy to forget that it actually looked like Chicago Fire could be a fight for short-term existence in its first weeks on air. It premiered OK, with 6.61 million viewers and a 1.9 demo rating on 10/10/2012, which was actually a tenth above its Law and Order: SVU lead-in. But week two brought a 20%ish drop for ChiFi, down to a fairly shaky 1.5 rating. It got a much-needed rebound in week three, to a 1.8, and hung in the high-1's for most of the rest of the fall. There were a couple more bad points later in the fall, dropping as low as 1.4 (in one case when it had to lead out of low-rated game show Take it All), but there were enough good points that it got the back nine.
It opened 2013 on a new series high 2.4, and had several weeks in the low-2's as it was able to avoid competing CSI on several occasions. It didn't drop below 1.6 in the second half of season one. While the numbers were still below the league average for the most part, it was definitely enough for a renewal on drama-starved NBC.
Off to Tuesday
It was also enough for a timeslot upgrade, as NBC shifted it to Tuesday and gave it a nice dose of direct lead-ins from The Voice starting in season two. It set a series high 2.7 in its first Tuesday episode, which still stands as the raw series high, and went even higher in Plus for the season three premiere (2.6) a year later.
That Voice exposure helped produce a significant sophomore bounce for Fire, but the timeslot was not as favorable when Voice returned to 8/7c and comedies were installed at 9/8c. This first happened in the second half of season two with About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher, and then pretty much throughout the next season. Fire particularly impressed in the middle of season three, when comedies Marry Me and About a Boy dropped deep into the zeroes, but Fire still hung onto mid-1's.
More Growth with Med
In season four, Fire didn't seem to get as much help from the direct post-Voice exposure for some reason; it was actually down around 30% in the first couple weeks of season four. But it was stronger than ever when Voice moved back to 8:00, thanks in large part to the spin-off Chicago Med being installed at 9/8c. It was up significantly in raw numbers through the winter months, when compared with the post-About a Boy episodes.
In addition to its own strong ratings trend, Chicago Fire also spawned two successful spin-offs, and Chicago Justice is coming next season. So this show's significance in the NBC comeback can't be understated. Fire is still the strongest of the Chicago bunch for now, and it's actually getting pretty close to what Law and Order: SVU was doing in its prime years in this Tuesday 10/9c slot. However, Med is off to another night, and the newbie This is Us will provide a new lead-in dynamic.
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.