Friday, December 29, 2017

The Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2017

It's time for my eighth 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. Please let me know about my most egregious rankings/omissions. 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
2014: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1

10. Hurricane Irma Shuts Down The Orville Preview Ratings (September 10)
As the dead of summer neared its conclusion, ratings junkies had to wait even longer than expected to get the numbers for the first episode of fall 2017 scripted TV (as well as the first weekend of NFL action). Hurricane Irma shut down Nielsen's data center in Tampa, putting preliminary Sunday ratings over 24 hours after their usual release time. Even setting aside the craziness of the delay, it ended up being a fairly momentous night; The Orville previewed well (2.7 demo) and went on to a solid Thursday run and a renewal.

9. The Sinner Finishes a Summer of Growth (September 20)
The summer saw several of the older-skewing cable networks find some success by tilting back in the female-skewing direction, with shows like TNT's Claws and a solid sophomore season for USA's Queen of the South. But the flashiest example was another USA drama, the Jessica Biel-led limited series The Sinner. After a nice 0.42 premiere, The Sinner grew each of the next three weeks and pulled off two more series highs late in the season. The biggest leap of all came at the end, as the 0.77 finale went more than two tenths ahead of any previous point (and more than 80% higher than the premiere rating).

8. 24 Hours After the Super Bowl, 24: Legacy Disappoints (February 6)
In 2016, CBS punted the Super Bowl lead-in by giving it to a late-night show. Perhaps it is just as bad or worse to give it to a new scripted show and then cancel that show??? Fox's latest revival of 24 sans Kiefer Sutherland managed a mere 6.1 demo with a late 11:00 ET start time after the Super Bowl, and could only muster up a 1.5 for its Monday premiere the next night. That was only a little better than the previous occupant Gotham, and it took just a couple more weeks for 24: Legacy to become clearly weaker than the fall occupant. Daylight Saving Time took another chunk away a month later, and Fox decided to cut ties.

7. Rick and Morty Makes a Major Millenial Splash (July 30)
The Adult Swim cartoon Rick and Morty was up big in season two, and in season three it made that rare leap from "nice story for cable" to "strong by any standard." It opened this season on a new high 1.48, and all nine episodes stayed above the high point of the first two seasons (1.12). And like all things Adult Swim, it was a far more impressive story in the lower half of that demo. It premiered with a 1.94 A18-34 and went on to average the same 1.94 for the season, outdone by only two broadcast entertainment series in 2016-17 (The Bachelor and Empire). It was approaching giga-hit territory in that demo by season's end, with a 2.18 A18-34 for the finale.

6. The Netflix Effect Resurfaces in Riverdale (October 11)
Not since the final season of Breaking Bad has off-season streaming had such a tangible effect on linear Nielsen ratings. There was nothing in Riverdale's season one trajectory to suggest much of a sophomore bounce, and many deemed it unworthy of anchoring Wednesday night for the CW. But the show that premiered at 0.5 and settled at 0.3 in the spring came out of nowhere with a 0.8 for its season two premiere. The effect was even more profound in younger demos, including an unthinkable jump from 0.3 to two point eight among female teens. It tapered off from there, but still has yet to fall below the 0.5 that marked the high point of the first season.

5. America's Got Talent and World of Dance Begin a Record-Setting Summer (May 30)
Survivor's inaugural season in 2000 was the last time a summer broadcast series was as overwhelming as America's Got Talent in 2017. The show was up in raw numbers on both nights and cracked megahit levels even by regular season standards. It launched reality newbie World of Dance to an enormous 2.4 on this night. WoD went on to settle in the upper-1's, which perhaps got a bit taken for granted since it paled in comparison to AGT. But it was still the biggest unscripted newbie in A18-49+ since The X Factor in 2011.

4. This Is Us Hits a New High Note to Open Season Two (September 26)
In season one, This Is Us became the third new broadcast drama in our 16-year records to hit the megahit threshold (a 200 A18-49+). It wasn't as big as Empire or Desperate Housewives in the first season, but it looks like it should pull off what those two shows couldn't: take a big step upward in the second season average. That began with an incredibly impressive 3.9 demo rating on Premiere Tuesday, a half point above the season one finale (which was already 0.4 above all the rest of season one). 2018 should be another big year for This Is Us, with post-Super Bowl exposure ahead.

3. Will and Grace Is a Must-See NBC Thursday Event (September 28)
The 3.0 demo for Will and Grace's return set up what is still my favorite TV ratings stat of 2017. To quote myself the day after: "Excluding Olympics and Super Bowl lead-outs, this will be the first NBC sitcom episode to crack a 200 in A18-49+ since... the finale of Will and Grace in 2006." And the W&G revival has had legs, settling in the upper-1's and trouncing its competitors in the Thursday 9/8c hour. The Must-See mojo provided another big step in the redemption of the once-iconic NBC Thursday, a lineup that had still been in dumpster fire territory pretty recently.

2. Game of Thrones Arrives in The Walking Dead Territory (August 27)
Around 2013, The Walking Dead became the first show that kinda "hacked" the whole idea of historical-adjusted numbers like A18-49+, piling up numbers that far exceeded any entertainment programming on the broadcasters. But it never had any company at those stratospheric heights until 2017, when Game of Thrones returned from over a year off at a new series high 4.71 (or 385 Plus). GoT added two more new series highs later in the season, including a 5.70 finale (465) that actually topped The Walking Dead's season finale (5.42). Whenever we see Game of Thrones' final season, it's hard to count out a run at TWD's highest Plus levels.

1. Two New Smashes and One Really Big Bang (September 25)
You could argue Premiere Monday had two or three different moments that would've been in the Top 5 on their own, but since all the ratings come out at the same time I will combine them for a runaway #1. At 8:00, longtime megahit The Big Bang Theory had perhaps its most impressive performance ever with a 4.1 demo. It led into a mind-blowing 3.8 for the premiere of Young Sheldon, a show that still has a chance to become the first megahit comedy newbie on record. And to wrap up the night, ABC's The Good Doctor defied all the rules about the 10/9c hour by exploding past its Dancing with the Stars lead-in (1.4) and opening with a whooping 2.2.

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