Primetime Ratings: 'Modern Family' Finds Ratings Gold

New dramas 'The Whole Truth,' 'Undercovers,' 'The Defenders' lackluster

Wednesday night's new series - The Whole Truth, Undercovers, The Defenders - underwhelmed viewers. But the return of ABC's Emmy winning comedy Modern Family found ratings gold, bowing with a 5.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic (and 12.6 million viewers), according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen. The episode was the highest-rated in the show's history and 19% better than its premiere a year ago.

All in all, ABC's Wednesday line-up was a mixed bag, with the second season premiere of Modern Family the high point and the anemic premiere of The Whole Truth dragging the network's nightly average down. The Whole Truth, which inherited a 3.3 from lead-in Cougar Town, was down to a 1.7 for its first half-hour and a 1.4 by 10:30 p.m., finishing the hour with an underwhelming 1.5. However, new Wednesday night comedy Better with You (2.5) held on to most of it's TheMiddle (2.6) lead-in, a good sign for ABC as it attempts to fill out its comedy block. 

On CBS, the decision to move Survivor  to the lead-off slot on Wednesday -- where the competition is thin -- is already paying off. Survivor: Nicaragua gave the network a win in the 8 p.m. hour with a 4.0. And Criminal Minds (4.0) was competitive with ABC comedies Modern Family and Cougar Town, which averaged a combined 4.2 in the 9 p.m. hour. CBS' new Jerry O'Connell/ Jim Belushi legal drama The Defenders put up a middling 2.9 for second place in the hour behind NBC's Law & Order: SVU, which bowed with a 3.5. The Defenders held on to more than 70% of its Criminal Minds lead-in, however. Next week, The Defenders will face Law & Order: Los Angeles, which will air regularly in the 10 p.m. slot. 

The news was not as good for NBC's Undercovers. The expensive new J.J. Abrams spy caper was fourth in the 8 p.m. hour with a 2.0 rating in the demo behind Survivor on CBS and Fox's Hell's Kitchen and ABC's comedies, which tied in the demo with a 2.6 each. Undercovers was down 13% compared to the series premiere of Mercy (now cancelled) in the time slot last year. But it also marks an 18% improvement over NBC's average in the time slot last season. Among total viewers, Undercovers was second in the hour with 8.5 million viewers, putting it behind only Survivor (12.4 million). And if Undercovers didn't exactly hit the ground running, it also managed to hold on to its audience throughout the hour adding one-tenth of a ratings point in its second half-hour, giving the show a glimmer of life in a tough time slot.