Which new shows have done well so far, and which are looking at a Season 1 cancellation? There’s one network in particular that’s reeling, and you might be surprised which one. More on that in a second. For now, let’s focus on which of the Fall TV shows are doing well. You’ll want to know which ones you can feel safe making a commitment to watching.
“Blindspot” is a winner, clearly riding on the interest in shows like “Blacklist.” Inexplicably delayed by a decade, the shift toward “Alias” clones is finally threatening the crime procedural’s long reign as the undisputed king of TV genres. Starring “Thor” actress Jamie Alexander, “Blindspot” is the No. 1 show of the season and has already been picked up for a full season. It’s averaged more than 9 million viewers a week and seems to have a floor hovering around 8 million. For NBC especially, that’s a success to build on.
“Quantico” was initially pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy” meets “Homeland.” Yes, that’s a terrifying concept. Nonetheless, it’s been relatively strong for ABC. Though it’s dropped viewers (7.1 million to 5.23 million), it’s stayed strong for ABC on Sunday nights, typically a very tough night because of the direct competition with the NFL’s Sunday Night Football.
Unlike many networks, CBS continues to understand that older viewers still know how to turn on the TV (even if they don’t know how to turn it off in the trailer above). Dianne Wiest and James Brolin aren’t exactly spring chickens, yet “Life in Pieces” has been exceptionally strong for them. It has bled viewers thus far, premiering at 11.28 million and descending to 7.84 million, but the ratings look as if the show has found a strong floor nonetheless.
For a Friday night sitcom with mediocre reviews, “Dr. Ken” has been killing it. It’s averaged about 6 million weekly viewers. Given the low overhead for this kind of old-fashioned sitcom, the kind of numbers “Dr. Ken” is getting means it gives ABC a high rate-of-return at very little financial risk. It’s also lost very few viewers week to week, indicating the show has legs and can develop a loyal audience. It should be getting a full season order soon.
“Limitless” is a bit of a mystery. After staying relatively stable for three weeks, it’s slid hard, losing about 1.5 million viewers from 9.57 million to 8.03 million. That’s odd for a show’s fourth week, and week 5 bled just a little bit more audience. Either it shares viewers with “Chicago Fire,” which premiered during its Week 4 slip, or this is the beginning of a steady decline for the show. Nevertheless, it could lose some viewers and still be in very stable territory. The show’s founds its audience, even if it does lose a few of them.
Fox has had the toughest season of any major network. The charming-but-safe crime procedural “Rosewood” has slipped hard since its premier, but it has a high floor for Fox at 5 million viewers. Good delayed viewing numbers and everything else going on at Fox this season keep it safe. It’s already had a full-season order.
Delayed viewing describes viewing done after the show’s broadcast, whether it’s done online through a service like Hulu or through a cable or satellite service like On-Demand. Fox tends to see higher-percentage increases in delayed viewing than other networks.
That’s the good. Aside from “Rosewood,” Fox has had the toughest season of any major network. “Scream Queens” would appear to be a disaster if not for delayed viewing. Fox typically does better with delayed viewing than the other networks, and the numbers for “Scream Queens” have been strong in this regard. Given its shock-and-comedy appeal and young cast, it might come to rely on them. Between same-day ratings and the three-day window after its premier, “Scream Queens” increased its audience from 4.04 million to 7.3 million, an almost unheard-of 81% increase. Despite this, it’s still bled nearly half of its audience between that premier and its fourth week, dipping from a 1.7 rating to a 1.0. Its fifth week shows a bounce back up, indicating the weekly live viewers are at 2.5 million, which still isn’t great.
Nothing was as disastrous for Fox (or anyone) this year as “Minority Report.” Premiering with just 3.1 million viewers, it’s quickly slipped to just 2 million. It’s 0.7 rating is tied for the lowest among new dramas, a complete meltdown for a property Fox overvalued and spent years developing. The network’s already cut its episode order from 13 to 10, and you’ll be lucky if all of those even air.
Numbers like these also speak to one of Fox’s worst decisions in the last two years: the cancellation of “Almost Human.” A critically successful show with legs, at least part of the reason that show was canceled in 2014 was due to its similarity to the in-development “Minority Report.” Featuring genre darling Karl Urban and up-and-coming heartthrob Michael Ealy, “Almost Human” never fell below 5.27 million viewers. Add in for its rather good delayed viewing totals, and it never fell below 7.9 million. Eleven episodes in, “Almost Human” was still doing 250% better than “Minority Report” is after just four. Hell, even “Firefly” was averaging twice as many viewers when Fox canceled it way back in 2002.
New FOX comedies “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder” have proved that building shows around aging one-note actors like John Stamos and Rob Lowe just won’t work. Each has plummeted and will see ratings in their Tuesday slots dip below a single point. Despite this, Fox keeps ordering episodes; the network just doesn’t have enough other shows in the pipeline to easily replace these comedies.
“Heroes Reborn” has also failed to capture audiences, and it’s slipping hard in the ratings. Its audience bleed doesn’t seem to be slowing either. “Heroes Reborn” is likely to finish its season without cancellation. Doing so would finish the brand off for good, and NBC may still feel that the franchise has some goodwill and cross-marketing value left to squeeze out of it.
If there’s a single loser this season, it is “The Muppets.” The show has lost more than half its audience, premiering to 9.01 same-day viewers and seeing that figure drop to 4.34 million in Week 4. This means the show will continue to slide. It’s lost an average of more than a million viewers a week. That trend will soften: this last week saw “only” half a million viewers shed. Nonetheless, most of these other shows have found their floor. “The Muppets” hasn’t, and will continue bleeding viewers for at least a few weeks yet. It’s still likely to see its first season through, though anything after that is doubtful.
If there’s one takeaway for this season of TV, it’s that diversification is continuing at a steady pace. Things aren’t anywhere close to equal, but “Quantico” and “Dr. Ken” are now the biggest shows on TV led by Asian-American actors. Indian actress Priyanka Chopra leads “Quantico” and South Korean-American actor Ken Jeong leads “Dr. Ken.” The three most successful new hour-longs are led by women. Given the number of options viewers have, networks finally have to start making shows for people they’ve historically ignored as leads.