UPDATED: The debut of Two and a Half Men with new star Ashton Kutcher lived up to the hype ratings-wise, while NBC hit a major bump on the opening night of the season. The ninth-season premiere of Two and a Half Men last night drew 27.7 million viewers and posted a 10.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic in the fast-nationals, numbers rarely seen for show not named American Idol these days and a series record for Men by a large margin. (UPDATE: In the final ratings, which include same-night DVR viewing, Men‘s premiere climbed to 28.7 million viewers and 10.7/5 in 18-49). In 18-49, Men more than doubled its season-premiere number last fall, up 110%. This was the highest-rated season premiere on any network in six years, since Desperate Housewives‘ second-season opener in September 2005.
Two and a Half Men provided a great lead-in for CBS’ new comedy 2 Broke Girls, which drew a 7.0/13 in 18-49 and 19.5 million viewers in its premiere behind Men before it moves to the 8:30 PM slot next week. (In the finals, the numbers were adjusted to a 7.1/16, 19.4 million). The comedy starring Kat Dennings posted the largest audience for a fall comedy debut in 10 years, since NBC’s Inside Schwartz, which launched behind mega-hit Friends.
And while Men is bound to steal all ratings headlines today, another veteran CBS comedy, How I Met Your Mother, also was off to a very hot start. It opened the night at 8 PM with a 4.7/13 in 18-49. That was the comedy’s highest-rated season premiere ever, up a whopping 31% from last fall, a surge rarely seen for a series in its seventh season. A second HIMYM episode at 8:30 PM rose even further to a 5.1/13 (5.2/13 in the finals). And if it starts to seem like the Two and a Half Men tide was lifting all the CBS boats last night, that wasn’t quite the case. Somewhat surprisingly, the second-season premiere of Hawaii Five-0 at 10 PM (3.4/8) was down 13% from its series debut last year despite having a lead-in twice as big as last fall’s. Two and a Half Men and CBS easily dominated the opening night of the 2011-12 season. But, because of the big curiosity factor associated with the public firing of former Men star Charlie Sheen and his replacement Kutcher, the show was expected to open well. The question is where it will settle when the novelty wears off. As for Sheen himself, we’re awaiting to see the ratings for his roast on Comedy Central, which also aired last night. (UPDATE: Comedy Central’s Roast Of Charlie Sheen Highest-Rated In Franchise History)
On the other broadcast networks last night, NBC’s The Playboy Club got off to a disappointing start with a 1.6/4 in 18-49 and 5 million viewers at 10 PM. It was down 30% from the premiere of NBC’s short-lived drama Chase in the same slot last year and did only a little better than last fall’s big flop, Fox’s Lone Star, which opened with a 1.3/3 and 4.1 million. The Playboy Club tied another short-lived show, Crusoe, as NBC’s lowest-rated fall drama premiere ever. The Playboy Club didn’t get much help from its lead-in, a two-hour The Sing-Off, which managed a 1.9/5 in the demo and 5.2 million viewers. (Chase had a stronger lead-in last year from The Event.) Sing-Off, whose only previous run was as a limited holiday series, was down 32% from its December debut to log the show’s lowest-rated telecast. Overall, NBC’s Monday lineup was down 30% from last fall, a troublesome sign for the network, which is looking to mount a ratings turnaround.
Against CBS’ red-hot comedy block anchored by the Two and a Half Men premiere, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (3.9/10) took a serious hit. It was down 24% from the reality juggernaut’s last fall debut and ranks as Dancing‘s lowest-rated opener ever. On the bright side for ABC, quirky dramedy Castle (3.3/8) at 10 PM, which resolved a big cliffhanger from last season’s finale, was up a whopping 22% year-to-year and almost tied Hawaii Five-0 for the top spot at 10 PM. (UPDATE: With the Dancing overrun taken into account, the reality series climbed to a 4.0/10 in the finals, while Castle slipped to a 3.2/8.)
Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen held up very well against increased competition. The 8 PM episode of the Gordon Ramsay series posted a 2.5/7 in adults 18-49, which was actually up 4% from last week. (The rating rose to a 2.6/7 in the finals.) The series’ season finale (2.6/6) at 9 PM was in line with the most recent Hell’s Kitchen finale in December.