Packing It on Their Freshman Year

If Smash holds, each network will have a new player in its top 5 this season

More than halfway
through the current
season, broadcastnetwork
television is proving it
can still launch hit shows, albeit
at today’s new, lowered definition
of success.

If NBC’s Smash can hold a majority
of its audience in the coming
weeks (and that’s a big if),
all five networks could end the
season with at least one first-year
show in their top five highestrated
series—a very different
story than this time last year.

And that’s good news for
the networks whose other top
shows, while still pulling in big
ratings, are in many cases approaching
double-digits in age.

Fox has managed to pop two
new series into its top five with
The X Factor and New Girl. While
X Factor producers signaled they
were not satisfied with the show’s first season when they fired half
the cast two weeks ago, the 4.3
rating it averaged with adults 18-
49 on two nights is nothing to
shrug at.

And with New Girl, Fox now
has a strong half-hour player to
build its long-desired live-action
four-comedy block around, which
the network will try March 6 with
the addition of I Hate My Teenage
and Breaking In to Tuesday
nights. New Girl has also given
Fox a new scripted heavyweight to
supplement the fading Glee.

0213 Programming Top Hits Chart

CBS, which last season popped
Mike & Molly, added the breakout
2 Broke Girls
to its already
dominant Monday comedy block
this season. The younger-skewing
sitcom has brought down the
median age of the night for CBS.
On Feb. 6 Girls was the network’s
highest-rated show, the first night
the comedy block went head-tohead
with NBC’s The Voice.

ABC’s surprise hit Once Upon
a Time
still holds the title of top
drama launch of the season, even
with Touch’s and Smash’s big leadins
from American Idol and The
, respectively. And Once Upon
a Time
’s success is hugely important
to ABC. Desperate Housewives
is winding down its final season,
and Grey’s Anatomy, though still
driving ratings, is seeing several
key cast members potentially departing
after this season.

Even The CW, which has struggled
to break out a hit on par with
The Vampire Diaries, has seen some
success with that series’ companion,
The Secret Circle, which is rating
well enough to round out the
network’s top five.

The exception to the rookie
rule (for now) is NBC, though
Smash gives the network a good
chance to break through. The
musical drama premiered to a
3.8 rating in the 18-49 demo, a
solid number, especially for a 10
p.m. show, but the question now
is where it goes from there.

Up All Night, after launching
to a 3.7 rating in September, has
since fallen to a 2.4 (though that
decline could be stemmed with
its new time slot after The Office).
If Smash posts the same or better
than Up’s 65% retention, it
could likely crack NBC’s top five
this season. And with The Voice as
its lead-in, Smash has NBC’s best
launch pad.

“I think NBC has got to be
guardedly optimistic at their success,”
says Brad Adgate, senior
VP of research at Horizon Media.
“The first week is encouraging,
but obviously there’s a lot more
ahead of the show.”

The stakes are well-documented:
With eight-year-old The Office still
NBC’s top-rated scripted show, the
network is long overdue for a new
kid on its top-five block.

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