Winners, Losers, Meh

Fall TV: The Winners and Losers

Jace Lacob examines the 2011-12 television season and rounds up the season’s winners and losers.


Colleen Hayes / ABC

WINNER: Revenge (ABC, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)

Winning over both critics and viewers with it soapy shenanigans, ABC’s Revenge has given the network two very important things: a ratings hit in the competitive Wednesdays at 10 p.m. timeslot (something ABC hasn’t had in eons, since Lost aired in that spot four years ago) and a likely successor to the channel’s Desperate Housewives, which will wrap its run this spring. Premiering with more than 10 million total viewers, that number has settled into roughly 8 million during its fall run, still a very comfortable tally for a freshman drama in the 10 p.m. hour. Additionally, the show managed to top CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in both the 18-49 and 18-34 demos.

Autumn Dewilde / Fox

WINNER: New Girl (Fox, Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)

Who’s that girl? It’s Jess. Whether you find New Girl—or star Zooey Deschanel, for that matter—“adorkable” or “tweepulsive,” it’s hard to deny that the show is a ratings success for Fox, which has hard a difficult time in its history launching live-action comedies. New Girl, which has in recent weeks continued to become an adorably charming and nuanced single-camera comedy, scored an impressive 10.3 million viewers and a 4.8 among adults 18-49 in its initial showing. After just two airings, Fox picked up an additional 11 episodes of the show, bringing its freshman total to 24. While a baseball-derived hiatus during the month of October hurt ratings, they have bounced back in recent weeks, with the Nov. 29 episode grabbing 7.6 million viewers. Compared to other new comedies this season, that’s a significant accomplishment in and of itself, but New Girl also seems to be slowly winning over some resistant critics as well.


WINNER: American Horror Story (FX, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)

Say what you want about the show itself (and, believe me, we have), American Horror Story—from creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk—has proven itself to be a ratings hit for FX on Wednesday nights and the most watched first-year show ever to air on the cable network. The pilot episode grabbed 3.2 million total viewers and soared to 5.2 million when you combine the premiere night’s two airings; the seventh episode (“Open House,” which aired out of Twilight) garnered a series high, becoming the most-watched basic cable program of the night in adults and women 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54, and topping the broadcasters’ offerings in adults 18-34 for the first time. While the ghost story has proven to be highly divisive, it was a no-brainer that FX would renew it for a second season, though what the format of a sophomore year would be (and who will star in it) remains to be seen.

Matthew Welch / AMC

WINNER: The Walking Dead (AMC, Sundays at 10 p.m.)

Already renewed for a third season, The Walking Dead, AMC’s breakout hit of last fall, once again shattered expectations and numbers with the first half of its sophomore year. (The second half will air beginning on Feb. 12.) The Season 2 premiere lured 7.3 million total viewers to the gory zombie drama, a basic cable record that soared to 11 million once two encore presentations were factored in. (It also set records for having the most viewers within the adults 18-49 and 25-54 demos, the most in basic cable history.) While there has been somewhat of a backlash against the show among viewers and critics, and some controversy in front of and behind the camera, the strong numbers (including the 6.6 million for the midseason finale) prove that there is an undeniable appetite for genre entertainment on television.

Craig Sjodin / ABC

WINNER: Once Upon a Time (ABC, Sundays at 8 p.m.)

ABC’s fairy tale-themed family show, Once Upon a Time, scored an impressive 13 million total viewers in its series premiere (ABC’s largest launch since 2006), with a 4.0 rating in adults 18-49, and it was no surprise that the network picked up a full season of 22 episodes shortly thereafter. The show has fallen as the weeks have gone on—it’s now hanging around the 10 million mark, but those numbers still make it a success (it’s still consistently in the top 20 programs for the week), particularly in the 8 p.m. timeslot. Despite ABC’s attempts to set this up as the next Lost (the creators are former writers of the hit show and relish in hiding Lost-themed Easter eggs within their new show), critics have been sharply divided about the show, with some praising it as one of the year’s best and others dismissing it altogether. Viewers, however, appear to have fallen under its spell.

Karen Neal / ABC

WINNER: ABC Wednesday Comedies

Now in its third year, ABC’s Modern Family continues to be a powerhouse, while Season 2 drew an average audience of 11.8 million viewers over its run, the third season has actually increased its ratings. 14.5 million total viewers turned into the season opener, and Season 3 has seen an average of 13.6 million viewers over its nine-episode run so far this season. This increase has also seen a halo effect over ABC’s Wednesday night comedy block—lead-out Happy Endings now regularly scores around 7 million viewers in the 9:30 p.m. timeslot. (That’s an increase of more than 2 million viewers from its first season, when it aired at 10 p.m. For comparison, Cougar Town, Modern Family’s lead-out last season, had dropped to about 5 million by the end of its sophomore run last season.) ABC has also finally found a worthy lead-in to Modern Family, with Suburgatory at 8:30 p.m. Launching to the tune of 9.8 million (with a 3.3 among the key adults 18-49 demo), Suburgatory has settled into a viewing audience of around 8.4 million viewers per week, retaining a huge percentage of The Middle’s 9 million-plus audience.


WINNER: Homeland (Showtime, Sundays at 10 p.m.)

One of the year’s best reviewed new shows, Showtime’s intoxicating thriller Homeland—which stars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis—has proven to be an audience favorite as well. Launching to 1.1 million total viewers, the premiere ranks as Showtime’s best-rated drama premiere since 2003’s supernatural drama Dead Like Me, which, coincidentally, also starred Mandy Patinkin. (Once all platforms were factored in, that number soared to 2.8 million.) The pay cable channel has already renewed Homeland for a second season, and can expect to find it on many best of 2011 lists going into end of the year. With aging hits like Dexter and Weeds moving toward their endgames, Homeland—one of the first new pieces of programming to come out of Showtime’s new entertainment president David Nevins’ development—seems poised to be a valuable player for the network for several years to come.

Michael Muller / CBS

WINNER: CBS Procedurals

CBS needs hardly be worried about the performance of its newest procedural dramas, Person of Interest and Unforgettable, both of which were picked up for full seasons earlier this fall. J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan’s Person of Interest—which stars Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson—kicked off its run with 13.2 million and has held on to most of that audience, regularly attracting nearly 12 million viewers week-to-week. (According to CBS, it’s the pilot that has tested the highest among focus groups in 15 years.) Unforgettable, meanwhile, which stars Poppy Montgomery as a former police detective with hyperthymesia (the ability to remember everything), grabbed 14.1 million viewers in its first outing—despite middling reviews—and it too has retained the majority of that audience, with roughly 11 million returning each week. (Slightly less successful is CBS’ Friday medical/supernatural hybrid drama, A Gifted Man, which launched with 9.6 million viewers overall and has settled in at about 8.3 million viewers. But, given the Friday timeslot, this is a feat in itself.)

Norman Jean Roy / CW

WINNER: The Secret Circle (CW, Thursdays at 9 p.m.)

Developed as a companion piece for the network’s high-rated offering, The Vampire Diaries, witchy-themed Secret Circle has proven to be a good fit for Thursdays. Launching to an audience of 3.05 million total viewers (and a 1.9 among adults 18-49) and holding onto nearly all of Vampire Diaries’ audience, the show has recovered from some false starts (the fourth episode tumbled to 1.96 million viewers) and settled in to a viewership that’s now regularly over 2 million on a weekly basis, and been picked up for a full season. It’s some good news for the struggling CW, though the network’s cache has risen significantly with the signing of major streaming deals with Netflix and Hulu Plus, which could draw new viewers to the network and which reaffirms the monetary value of their youth-skewing programming.

Monty Brinton / CBS

WINNER: 2 Broke Girls (CBS, Mondays at 8:30 p.m.)

Despite the fact that 2 Broke Girls was largely savaged by critics—with complaints ranging from the fact that the show was engaging in shallow and uncomfortable ethnic stereotypes (with Emily Nussbaum writing in The New Yorker that the supporting characters were "so racist it is less offensive than baffling") to the show’s tired overreliance on vagina and horse poop jokes—this throwback sitcom managed to score with CBS’ Monday night audience, with a staggering 19.2 million total viewers tuning in for the series premiere, the highest rated launch for a comedy in 10 years. (It should be noted, however, that that episode aired after the “Death of Charlie Harper” on Two and a Half Men in a one-time 9:30 p.m. timeslot.) Since then, the show, from executive producers Whitney Cummings and Michael Patrick King, has settled in around 11 million viewers, making it one of the season’s true success stories, horse poop and all.


WINNER: Two and a Half Men (CBS, Mondays at 9 p.m.)

Charlie who? Following the year’s most dramatic public meltdown, CBS comedy mainstay Two and a Half Men has seemed to recover from the departure of star Charlie Sheen, despite what The Wrap might say about the show being dead before Christmas. (No way.) The death of Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, and the introduction of new series anchor, Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt—played by Ashton Kutcher—drew the show’s highest ratings to date, with a whopping 28.7 million viewers tuning in to the ninth season premiere and the show consistently nabbing a 13 share and a 5.3 in the key adults 18-49 demographic. While retoolings—especially of long-running shows such as this one—are especially fraught with peril (just look at how poorly NBC’s The Office has fared without Steve Carell), Two and a Half Men has proven to be an exception, moving past an awkward concept (Walden moves in with two strangers because he’s… lonely?) that requires a bit more willing suspension of disbelieve than traditional sitcoms might employ.


DRAW: Last Man Standing (ABC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)

Last Man Standing might be a ratings success for ABC: it opened to 13.2 million viewers with a one-hour launch and regularly attracts between 9-10 million viewers on a weekly basis, and has been picked up for full season of 22 episodes, but the show—which stars Tim Allen as the pater familias of a clan of women—has received some of the very worst reviews of the season, garnering a shocking 33 on Metacritic. Newsday’s Verne Gay wrote, “Dreadful. Or to use a more manly phrase, aaarrgggh, awful.” Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall wrote that it “feels like a gross miscalculation—a failed attempt to update Allen's familiar persona for an angrier, more desperate time.” And the Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin commented that the show is a “kind of voracious video parasite that sucks out all intellect, sense of purpose or will to live.”

Frank Ockenfels / AMC

DRAW: Hell on Wheels (AMC, Sundays at 10 p.m.)

Premiering to largely mixed reviews (AOLtv’s Maureen Ryan said of it, “It's good at being tedious.”) and unfavorable comparisons to HBO’s beloved Deadwood, AMC’s period drama Hell on Wheels nonetheless ranked as the second-highest series premiere to date for the cable network, behind just The Walking Dead, with 4.4 million total viewers (and 2.4 million in the key adults 18-49 demo). However, ratings-wise, the show has been on a downward momentum, with the second episode garnering 3.8 million, the third 3.5 million, and the fourth installment 3.3 million. Now at the halfway point through its freshman season, the show’s future is decidedly unclear. While still drawing ratings above The Killing (which ended its run up at 2.3 million, an increase from a series low of 1.8 million), the pattern isn’t encouraging for Hell on Wheels’ long-term survival.

Nino Munoz / Fox

DRAW: The X Factor (Fox, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.)

Already renewed for a second season, The X Factor has proven to be somewhat of a success for Fox, but Simon Cowell’s early predictions that the reality competition show—a huge hit in the United Kingdom—would break 20 million viewers or be deemed a failure make its performance seem somewhat less than inspired as a result. Launching to 12.5 million total viewers (a far cry from Cowell’s predicted 20-plus million and American Idol’s average audience of 25.9 million) and a 4.4/12 among adults 18-49, that number has tumbled somewhat to around 10 million viewers (with some episodes attracting fewer than 9 million), while still managing to place either first or second in the timeslot. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, Fox can’t be entirely happy with how X Factor has been performing, despite some critics preferring its irreverent, sharp-edged spirit to Idol’s schmaltziness.

Michael Lavine / Fox

DRAW: Terra Nova (Fox, Mondays at 8 p.m.)

Expectations were high for Terra Nova, Fox’s expensive and dismal time-travel/ dinosaurs mash-up, the pilot of which reportedly cost more than $20 million to produce. The show, criticized for weak script and even weaker character development, boasted Steven Spielberg’s imprimatur, numerous special effects-related delays, behind-the-scenes musical chairs, and fleet of executive producers that nearly outstripped the viewership. The show’s launch saw just 9.2 million viewers tune in, likely considerably less than internal Fox projections had anticipated, and those numbers continued to erode, hitting a series low of 6.5 million in late November for its eighth installment. Terra Nova’s fate is still unknown, as Fox executives will reportedly wait until May to decide whether to order a second season

Gavin Bond / Fox

DRAW: Teenage Daughter (Fox, Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.)

Despite a late-in-the-game name change (from I Hate My Teenage Daughter) in promos, its premiere date getting pushed back, and some of the very worst reviews of the year, Teenage Daughter premiered to decent numbers, earning a 2.8 in adults 18-49 and holding on to a staggering 76 percent of its lead-in, The X Factor. Whether those numbers will hold after first week sampling remain to be seen, but there are few shows more deserving of an early cancelation than this terrible and unfunny throwback to uninspired sitcoms of the 1990s. The only laughter here is canned, I’m afraid.

Andrew MacPherson / NBC

DRAW: Up All Night (NBC, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.)

NBC has a sliding scale for success, given its role in last place. On any other network, Up All Night would likely have been axed already; NBC however picked up the low-rated comedy for a full season and plans to give it a plum 9:30 p.m. timeslot after The Office come January. Launching to the tune of 11 million views, that number has dropped more than 50 percent, with the most recent episodes landing in the 4-5 million viewer range. Given the ratings drop, NBC’s scheduling decision is a vote of confidence in Up All Night, which stars Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph, while critics have categorized the show as one desperately in search of itself. (Rudolph, in particular, seems stranded in an entirely different show than her co-stars.) If Up All Night manages to improve its ratings by airing out of The Office, it could end up walking away with a second season.

Art Streiber / CW

DRAW: Ringer (CW; Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)

Not surprisingly, CW’s neo-noir thriller has Ringer has already been picked up for a full season. Premiering to 2.8 million viewers (and a 1.6 in the women 18-34 demographic), Ringer brought the CW its best ratings in its Tuesday timeslot since 2008. Ratings have fallen a bit as the weeks progressed (it’s now hovering around 1.7 million), though those numbers are still considerable for the CW. However, given the high expectations endemic to casting Sarah Michelle Gellar (with scores of Buffy fans eager for her return to television), Ringer isn’t quite a winner. And whether the concept—which has SMG playing a pair of twins, one a murderous socialite, the other a down-and-out stripper—has legs remains to be seen.

Eric Ogden / NBC

DRAW: Grimm (NBC; Fridays at 9 p.m.)

Receiving extremely mixed reviews (with TV Guide’s Matt Roush writing, “If only Grimm didn't also feel like we've seen it before, only executed with more verve and humor back in the glory days of Buffy and Angel.”), Grimm managed to scare up an impressive 6.7 million total viewers in the graveyard of Friday nights, though, while that number has fallen to 5.4 million in its most recent broadcast, it’s still pulling significantly more weight than its Fox competitor, Fringe (2.9 million) and its lead-in, Chuck (3.1 million). Given that, it’s no surprise that NBC opted to pick up the show for a full 22 episodes, the only new drama that has earned that reward at NBC so far this season. Plus, NBC will also give Grimm a shot at a larger audience, by testing it in the Thursday at 8 p.m. timeslot this week, demonstrating that the network seems to believe in the show’s potential.

John Russo / NBC

LOSER: The Playboy Club (NBC, Monday at 10 p.m.)

NBC had big plans for its 1960s-set drama, The Playboy Club. Back in May, NBC entertainment president Robert Greenblatt talked big about brand awareness, musical acts, and the resurrection of the vintage Playboy Club nightclubs around the world. But the show itself failed to click with anyone: men looking for titillation found broadcast network standards and a workplace soap centered around women; female viewers were turned off by the soft-core porn allusion of the title and didn’t stick around to sample, leaving the Eddie Cibrian-led show—which had been critically savaged—attracting a shockingly low 1.2 rating in the key 18-49 demo and 3.5 million total viewers by its third and final episode. It was, unsurprisingly, the first cancelation of the 2011-12 season.

Bob D'Amico / ABC

LOSER: Charlie’s Angels (ABC, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.)

After airing just four episodes, ABC canned the revival of the hugely popular 1970s action-drama. This move came as a surprise to precisely no one who had either seen the ratings for the show or who had seen the show itself. While Charlie’s Angels—which received some of the worst reviews of the fall—premiered to 8.8 million viewers and a 2.1/6 share among viewers 18-49, that number had fallen to 5.9 million viewers and a 1.3 among the key demo by the time that fateful fourth episode rolled along. ABC has since burned off the remaining episodes, sending these angels off of the airwaves.

Bob D'Amico / ABC

LOSER: Pan Am (ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m.)

Despite largely positive reviews for Pan Am’s pilot episode (which reportedly cost more than $10 million to shoot), critics soon turned on the ABC period drama. While 11.1 million viewers tuned in to the premiere (it snared a 3.1 in the key adults 18-49 demo), the ratings have been in a freefall since, with a loss of roughly 50 percent of viewers since the opener. (The most recent broadcast landed just a 1.6 in the key demo.) Rumors swirled recently that ABC had axed the show, but the network insisted that it had added an extra episode (bumping its total to 14 episodes) and would air its entire season run. While the show does well overseas, it’s pretty much a given that rumor will turn to fact in the new year and Pan Am won’t be taking off for a second season anytime soon.

Scott Humbert / CW

LOSER: H8R (CW, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.)

It’s mind-boggling that the CW, which has such a clear and concise picture of its youth-oriented key demo, has yet to produce a breakout reality success, unlike MTV. (And, no, I don’t count the sagging America’s Next Top Model in that picture.) While it’s attempted some bizarre offerings (Shedding for the Wedding, anyone?), it failed completely with this fall’s disastrous and critically loathed H8R, a show which promised celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Snooki the opportunity to turn the tables on their haters. (Yawn.) Audiences clearly couldn’t care less: with the show’s premiere pulling in just over 1.3 million viewers, the CW yanked it after airing four low-rated episodes that saw the figures plummet to 1.1 million viewers. Later, H8R!

Mitchell Haaseth / NBC

LOSER: Whitney (NBC, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.)

Whitney Cummings’ self-titled multi-camera comedy Whitney received some of the harshest reviews of the season, with Slate’s Troy Patterson commenting, “If you caught a snippet of Whitney unawares, you would be forgiven for assuming that it's one of those shows-within-a-show that exists to caricature bad television.” (Ouch.) Premiering to an audience of 6.9 million viewers and (a 3.2 rating in the key demo), the show has lately dropped to under 4 million in recent weeks… and NBC has announced that Whitney is getting booted from its cushy post-Office timeslot to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (where it will lead into Are You There, Chelsea?), beginning in January. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, despite the fact that NBC already picked up a full season of Whitney, but with the network positioning Up All Night in Whitney’s soon-to-be-vacated slot, the show has to go somewhere, and insiders are already anticipating further drop-off.

Martin Schoeller / Starz

LOSER: Boss (Starz, Fridays at 10 p.m.)

Despite generally favorable reviews, including a glowing one from The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman, who wrote that Boss was “a wholly impressive new drama that comes out of the gate with gravitas, swagger, originality and intrigue,” Starz’s effort to compete with rival HBO under new entertainment chief (and former HBO entertainment president) Chris Albrecht hasn’t exactly clicked with viewers. Starring Kelsey Grammer, Boss is a King Lear-esque political drama about a Chicago mayor whose grip on his sanity—and his health—is perilous indeed, and was quickly renewed for a second season, despite its ratings. The series premiere saw just .66 million viewers tune in, and a third episode dropped precipitously to just .27 million. (Yes, that decimal point is correct: just more than 250,000 viewers.) Starz is clearly chasing after the critics and awards nominations and the fact that they are a subscriber-based platform makes keeping such a dismal performer on the air significantly easier. But still, one has to wonder just how low ratings have to sink to go past the point of no return.

Gavin Bond / NBC

LOSER: Prime Suspect (NBC, Thursdays at 10 p.m.)

Poor Maria Bello. After a series launch that saw 6.1 million viewers tune in (in the difficult Thursdays at 10 p.m. timeslot) and Bello’s bewilderment that viewers and critics would fixate on her headwear on the show, the American remake of the dazzling British crime drama Prime Suspect hit the skids, with viewership plummeting week-to-week, even with widely positive reviews for the show (The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert wrote of it, “This is a million miles from PBS and Mirren, but it works because of Bello's visceral energy.”) and particularly Bello’s performance. The most recent outing grabbed just 4.7 million viewers and a 1.3 in the key demo, and NBC has announced that Prime Suspect will vacate its timeslot in January, when it will be replaced by another drama remake, The Firm. It’s unclear, at press time, whether NBC will opt to air 13 episodes or leave the last few installments on the shelf.


LOSER: Free Agents (NBC; Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.)

Based on a hit British comedy of the same name, NBC’s Free Agents—which starred Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn, and Anthony Stewart Head (reprising his role from the U.K. original)—was dead on arrival when it premiered this fall, amid some truly awful reviews. (USA Today’s Robert Bianco wrote, “There's not a character you're likely to believe, which is a problem, or one you want to see again, which for a series is a bigger problem.”) Despite a launch that saw 6.1 million viewers tune in, those numbers dropped to just 3.9 million by the second airing, and NBC pulled Free Agents from the schedule after four low-rated installments, with the fourth and final airing drawing just 3.3 million viewers. Ouch.


LOSER: Allen Gregory (Fox, Sundays at 8:30 p.m.)

Fox’s latest animated comedy offering, Allen Gregory, failed to click with critics or viewers, with just 4.8 million total viewers tuning in for the first episode (nearly half of those who watched The Simpsons that same evening). Recent episodes have fallen to just a hair above 3 million viewers, though this week’s episode was substantially helped by football to help the show match the demo performance (2.4 in adults 18-49) of the pilot episode. Still, given that the show was not included in Fox’s midseason schedule, it’s safe to say that Allen Gregory won’t be heard from for much longer.

Karen Neal / ABC

LOSER: Man Up! (ABC; Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about the dismal Man Up!, exclamation point aside? Part of a trend of manxiety comedies that include lead-in Last Man Standing, CBS’ How to Be a Gentleman, and midseason entry Work It, Man Up! attracted 7.8 million viewers for its launch before tumbling 21 percent by Week 2. Subsequent episode ratings fell further still, with the most recent broadcast attracting 6.6 million. The show, which drew scathing reviews (The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara commented specifically on “the sheer bone-idle laziness of the writing, which is a dumbed-way-down Modern Family crossed with watered-way-down Two and a Half Men."), was not included on ABC’s midseason schedule and is believed to have been unofficially canceled.

Cliff Lipson / CBS

LOSER: How to Be a Gentleman (CBS; Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.)

CBS has had a lot of success with its multi-camera comedy blocks on Mondays and Thursdays, which makes the ghastly How to Be a Gentleman all the more of a misstep. Receiving terrible advance reviews and premiering to roughly 9 million viewers, the ratings dropped by 1.4 million viewers by its second week, at which time CBS booted it to Saturday nights and cut back its order from 13 episodes to nine. But after just one low-rated Saturday night broadcast, which netted just 2.4 million viewers, CBS decided to just put Gentleman out of its misery altogether.