Friday, December 28, 2018

The Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2018


It's time for my ninth 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 and 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
2015
2016
2017



10. Black Lightning Matches The Flash On Premiere Night (January 16)
The closest thing to a breakout in CW world this year was the winter premiere of Black Lightning, which had the same 0.8 as its lead-in from The Flash. After a return to 0.8 in week three, the show eventually settled at a consistent 0.5, but pulling those off even with 0.2 repeat lead-ins was strong stuff. This moment may have ranked a little higher if the season one Black Lightning showed up in the fall, but the show has never recaptured that mojo in season two.

9. This Is Us Goes Huge After the Super Bowl (February 4)
It doesn't rank as highly as This Is Us moments in years past since there was no long-term bump to the show's ratings. But even as a one-off, This Is Us (9.3) was the most impressive post-Super Bowl episode in at least a half-dozen years. The episode notably tilted the gender-skew of the typically male-leaning Super Bowl audience, posting a 10.2 in women 18-49 vs. an 8.4 in men. Airing a momentous episode made this a great showcase for the show's cultural impact, and This Is Us has kept chugging along in fall 2018; it should easily get labeled a megahit by A18-49+ for a third consecutive year in 2018-19.

8. The Conners Helps ABC Salvage the Roseanne Debacle (October 16)
I can't rank this too highly because I don't think anybody was all that stunned that the Roseanne spin-off (2.4) premiered right around where the Roseanne revival ended (2.5). But after a Roseanne Barr tweet got the revival quickly cancelled during the summer, being able to squeeze a hit-level sitcom out of the remnants was a much-needed consolation prize for the ABC schedule. This night also saw the launches of new series The Kids Are Alright (1.4) and The Rookie (1.0), both of which have since gotten full-season orders.

7. The American Idol Revival Shows Some Late Spunk (April 29)
2018 was the year that ABC revived American Idol, the most important show in TV ratings for the first decade of this century. The ABC version was never anything like the Fox Death Star that engulfed its opposition in the late aughts, and the early weeks raised some real questions about whether it was worth the price tag. But things took a turn for the better late in the season, when Idol seasons past have often faded, as the show popped to a 1.9 with the start of the live shows. That began an unexpected run of high-1's to end the season, putting Idol more squarely in the win column.

6. 60 Minutes' Stormy Daniels Interview Hits Historic Ratings (March 25)
It was a banner year for the collision of entertainment TV ratings and politics, as #3 and #1 on this list can certainly attest. But there was also a signature moment for political TV ratings even in the news show realm: Anderson Cooper's enormously-rated interview with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged a sexual encounter with the President. On an A18-49+ basis, this is the highest-rated 60 Minutes in my nearly 20-year records. On a simple raw number basis, the 4.0 rating was the best 60 Minutes has done without NFL help in over a decade. (Though it did have a big college basketball lead-in.)

5. Manifest Breaks Out On Premiere Monday (September 24)
Just like a year ago, Premiere Monday brought a 10/9c drama launch (Manifest's 2.2) that improbably built on its reality tentpole lead-in (The Voice's 2.0). Manifest has lacked the post-premiere legs to sit alongside the strongest occupants of the post-Voice timeslot, like This Is Us and The Blacklist; though it was a massive DVR gainer all fall, half of the premiere's Live+SD audience is gone, with likely more erosion to come. That probably keeps it from ranking another couple spots higher. But at least comparing premiere nights, this show was every bit as impressive as the best post-Voice occupants.

4. Ellen's Game of Games Brings The Voice-esque Ratings to the Winter (January 2)
The unscripted staples keep plugging away, but making new ones is a challenge for the broadcasters. That made what NBC did with Ellen's Game of Games in early 2018 extra special; it opened with a 2.2/2.4 on this night, very much in line with the strongest The Voice Tuesday episodes later in the season, and it held in the low-2's and high-1's throughout the next five weeks. In A18-49+, Game of Games (183) was the biggest unscripted newbie in well over a decade, even narrowly edging season one of The Voice. It'll be a tough level to recapture in 2019, when it will have been over 11 months since its last regularly-scheduled original. But what a level it was.

3. On a New Network, Last Man Standing Lights up Friday (September 28)
ABC's cancellation of the successful Tim Allen sitcom in 2017 became a major story in conservative political media, and Fox capitalized on that in 2018 by bringing the show back, bigger and more male-skewing than ever. The 1.8 on this night beat any raw rating in the last four Last Man seasons on ABC, and in A18-49+ it crushed any rating from the entire ABC run. It ended up with low-1's pretty quickly, but that's still going to make it one of the strongest Friday night series we have ever seen; it should average well above the big four league average, even airing for a full season.

2. 9-1-1 Becomes the Crown Jewel of Fox's All-Renewed Drama Class (January 3)
Coming into the new year, one of the big questions was whether the newest Ryan Murphy production 9-1-1 could post nice retention of its lead-in, the second run of The X-Files revival. Instead, 9-1-1 (1.8) zoomed past X (1.3), and later held in the high-1's while X went fractional. And in season two, it's held up much better than fellow 2017-18 drama hit The Good Doctor, proving key to Fox's ratings resurgence. Like the #1 moment last year, this one ranks so highly in part because it was a busy night; The X-Files' struggles were a big story in their own right, while CBS launched a huge comeback season for The Amazing Race (1.6) at the same time.

1. Roseanne Takes Revivals Into the Stratosphere (March 27)
It's impossible to separate out the ugly end to the Roseanne revival, but what it pulled off in the Nielsen ratings was one of the most extraordinary achievements since this website has existed. With a 5.2 demo, the show posted the second-highest A18-49+ for a sitcom episode in the entire A18-49+ era, beating the Ashton Kutcher debut on Two and a Half Men in 2011 and trailing only the 2004 Friends finale. Though it had a lot of help from airing only a short season with a double-length premiere, the full average still managed to rank as the biggest broadcast entertainment season in A18-49+ history (320), eclipsing even American Idol at its peak.

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