It was a big night in Shondaland, with all three series produced by Shonda Rhimes scoring fast-national demo ratings with a 3 in front of them. New drama How To Get Away With Murder opened with a bang, Scandal hit another set of series highs, and Grey’s Anatomy was solid to collectively deliver ABC’s strongest Thursday performance in five years.
There is probably no one better in galvanizing TV fans on social media these days than Rhimes. There was a lot of online buzz, a cast selfie with Ellen DeGeneres and even a controversy over the New York Times story referring to Rhimes as an “angry black woman” — all the elements you’d want for a successful prelaunch campaign. Looking at the ratings, I think it is safe to say that Rhimes is a happy black woman this morning.
ABC’s hottest drama, Scandal, opened its fourth season in its new 9 PM time slot with new series highs of 3.8 in adults 18-49 and 11.9 million total viewers. Scandal now has gone up in the demo season-to-season in each premiere: 5% in Season 2; a whopping 71% in the Season 3 debut last fall, which also recorded a series high; and 6% in the Season 4 opener last night. (In total viewers, last night’s premiere was up 13% from last fall.)
The newest entry in Rhimes’ portfolio of shows, the Peter Nowalk-created How To Get Away With Murder, launched with a stellar 3.8 in adults 18-49 and 14 million viewers, holding on to 100% of its Scandal lead-in and growing 18% in total viewers. Murder matched last fall’s The Blacklist on NBC as the highest-rated 10 PM drama premiere in two years and ranked as the most-watched 10 PM drama opener in two years.
Opening the night for ABC at 8 PM was veteran Grey’s Anatomy (3.0, 9.8 million), which slipped 12% from last season’s season premiere in 18-49, but that one aired from 9-11 PM. In total viewers, Grey’s actually was up from last fall’s debut and also up from the May finale in both 18-49 and viewers.
UPDATE 2 PM: In the final ratings, all three Shondaland dramas went up a tenth, Scandal (12.2 million) and Murder to a 3.9 (14.3 million) and Grey’s to a 3.1 (10.1 million). These are fresh new highs for Scandal, which now eclipsed the debut of The Blacklist last fall.
I’m no football expert, but couldn’t the teams for the Thursday NFL games be matched a little better? Following last week’s 56-14 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last night the N.Y. Giants scored 45-14 victory over Washington. Still, the ratings recovered from last week’s big drop, up 32% to a 11.2 household rating for the CBS/NFL Network combo. Football improved CBS’ Thursday household ratings but not by much — the network was up 16% from Premiere Thursday last fall, when it featured two episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the premiere of The Crazy Ones as well as the season openers of Two And A Half Men and Elementary. CBS is expected to win the night in 18-49, while the total viewer race at the moment is too close to call between CBS and ABC, though CBS likely will get a bigger bump in the finals to account for live viewing. UPDATE: In the finals, CBS scored a 4.3 in 18-49 and 12.6 million viewers, edging ABC (3.6, 12.2 million) in total viewers. (The combined CBS/NFL Network numbers were 5.6 and 15.4 million.)
Meanwhile, fans are staying loyal to NBC’s Parenthood, whose final season opened with a 1.4 in 18-49. That was down 13% from last fall’s opener but equaled its highest rating since the second episode last season and up 8% from the April finale.
Parenthood built a bit on its The Biggest Loser lead-in (1.3 from 18-49). The good news for the long-running reality series is that it appears impervious to competition, holding 100% of its 18-49 rating from last week against last night’s premieres on ABC and Fox. The bad news is that this probably is what you’re going to get from the show, and a 1.3 demo rating is not the strongest lead-in you could hope for when trying to launch two new comedies in a competitive time slot as NBC is this fall with the upcoming Bad Judge and A To Z.
The surprising demise of a main character did not give a bump to Fox’s long-running utility player Bones. In yet another new time slot, the veteran procedural earned a 1.6 for its 10th-season premiere last night, down 26% from last season’s premiere on Monday but even with the May finale.