Last night’s ratings provided more ammunition for the theory that scripted programming may be doomed on Friday. The two highest-rated programs on the night in adults 18-49 by a mile were a a reality series, CBS’ Undercover Boss (2.4/8), and a newsmagazine, ABC’s 20/20 (2.0/6). The former made a very strong entry on Friday, drawing not only the highest 18-49 rating of the night but also the largest audience (10.7 million), edging the usual Friday winner in total viewers, CBS drama Blue Bloods (10.3 million, 1.6/5 in 18-49). Seeing an unscripted show almost double the delivery of a high-end drama (A Gifted Man) in the 8 PM hour has got to give CBS, the staunchest supporter of maintaining an all-scripted Friday lineup, a pause. Especially since Undercover Boss not only outperformed A Gifted Man but posted CBS’ largest audience and 18-49 rating in the hour in three years — since the March 6 and May 1 episodes of Ghost Whisperer, the last CBS scripted series to worked in the Friday 8 PM slot. A Gifted Man (9.5 million, 1.5/4) didn’t do much with the better 9 PM time period and big lead-in from Boss, only matching its best 18-49 delivery to date.
Despite the strong numbers for Undercover Boss, CBS (1.8/6, 10.3 million) lost the No. 1 spot for the night in 18-49 to ABC (1.9/6, 7.1 million) for the first time this season after the networks finished tied twice before. ABC was paced by a big two-hour 20/20 (2.0/6, 7.1 million) devoted to Whitney Houston. ABC posted its largest audience of the night in two years and best 18-49 delivery in over a year. That despite a depressed Shark Tank at 8 PM. The new reality entry in the hour, Undercover Boss, pushed both Shark Tank (1.5/5, down 17%) and Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares (1.3/4, down 13%) lower. Fringe has been nothing but consistent, staying frozen at a series-low 1.1/3. NBC’s broadcast of the NAACP Image Awards (0.8/2) was up 33% from last year, possibly boosted by a Whitney Houston tribute. Dateline (1.1/3) was overpowered by 20/20, down 27%. The CW’s Nikita (0.6/2) was up a tenth, Supernatural (0.7/2) was down a tenth.