The broadcast networks weathered the second week of the fall season without precipitous ratings declines, which for the majority of the new class represents success so far. Low expectations after last season's dismal post-WGA-strike showing now require grading on a curve.
Even without that curve, week two showed promise of at least one true bright spot: Ratings results indicated that CBS may have another big-tent hit on its hands with veteran drama NCIS, which in its sixth season posted a series-high tune-in last week of 21.6 million viewers. The show also dominated the hour in the 18-49 sales demographic, posting a 4.6 rating. However, the season's first cancellation also came down: The CW drama The Beautiful Life.
On Monday, Sept. 28, CBS comedies held up well. The Big Bang Theory improved in its second week, up to a 5.1 rating in the demo from a 4.6. Fox's House was also solid in its second week (5.7 demo rating, 14.4 million viewers). But NBC executives cannot be happy with the debut of expensive new drama Trauma, which managed a 2.3 rating, ahead of only The CW's Gossip Girl at 9 p.m.
On Tuesday, the big return for NCIS again lifted newcomers NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife, which won their time slots.
ABC's Wednesday comedies Hank and The Middle did not give the network much to celebrate. Neither cracked a 3.0 rating in the demo. But Modern Family and Cougar Town held on without the Dancing With the Stars lead-in, notching a 3.7 (down from a 4.3 premiere) and 3.6 demo rating (also down from a 4.3 premiere), respectively. Fox's Glee was steady, settling in around a 3.0 demo rating.
It remains to be seen if CBS' gamble to build a dominant Thursday block with CSI and The Mentalist will pay off. The second episode of Grey's Anatomy (6.0 demo rating) clobbered CSI (4.0 demo rating), while the season premiere of Private Practice (4.5 in the demo) easily beat The Mentalist (3.7).
FlashForward, ABC's hyped sci-fi thriller, held up reasonably well in week two, posting a 3.7 demo rating to tie CBS' Survivor for the top spot in the 8 p.m. time slot. The CW's Vampire Diaries built among its target of 18-34-year-old women with a 2.7 rating.