We may have the first breakout hit of the season. Fox’s quirky new comedy New Girl far exceeded ratings expectations with a huge debut, drawing a 4.7 rating/12 share among adults 18-49 to rank as the top program of the night by a wide margin. (UPDATE 9:15 AM: In the time-zone-adjusted Nielsen numbers just released by Fox, New Girl‘s premiere climbed to a 4.8/12.) In total viewers, the comedy starring Zooey Deschanel averaged 10.1 million viewers. Compared with the series premiere of Raising Hope in the same slot last fall, New Girl was up 52%. It posted Fox’s highest-rated live-action fall comedy debut in a decade, since Bernie Mac (5.7/14) in 2001. It even eclipsed the premiere of TV’s highest-rated comedy at the moment, ABC’s Modern Family, which opened with a 4.3 demo rating in 2009. It also paced Fox (3.9/10, 8.7 million) to a nightly win in the 18-49 demo. That is a nice validation for Fox’s marketing team, whose controversial decision to make the show’s pilot available on iTunes and VOD before the premiere raised concerns that the exposure might hurt ratings for the opener. (Unofficial estimates peg the number of streams at about 2 million.) New Girl also shot up from its lead-in, Glee (3.8/11, 8.9 million), whose third-season premiere was down sharply from the big Season 2 opener, by 31%. (All comparisons in this story are fast nationals to fast nationals. UPDATE 9:15 AM: In the time-adjusted numbers, the Glee premiere rose to a 4.0/11.) Following New Girl, the second season of Raising Hope (3.1/8, 6.9 million) was even in the demo with its premiere last fall when it followed Glee.

ANALYSIS: Behind ‘New Girl’s Surprisingly Big Opening And The iTunes Experiment


CBS’ lineup was rock solid, especially veteran NCIS (4.2/12, 19.5 million), which shows no signs of slowing down as it enters its ninth season. Last night’s premiere was actually up 8% from last season’s opener, which was impacted by the big Glee premiere and ranked as the most-watched program of the night and the second-highest-ranked in 18-49 behind New Girl. NCIS: LA (3.6/9, 16.7 million) was also slightly up from last season’s premiere, by 6%. The other new series besides New Girl last night, CBS’ procedural Unforgettable, opened with a solid 2.9/8 in 18-49 and 14 million viewers to win its 10 PM time period. It was on par with the second part of the NCIS: LA premiere (3.0/8) CBS aired on the night last September. CBS (3.6/9, 16.7 million) finished No. 1 for the night in total viewers and second to Fox in 18-49.

While news was good for Fox and CBS last night, things looked bleak for NBC and ABC with steep ratings declines.

NBC’s The Biggest Loser (2.3/6) continued its downward ratings trend despite adding some star power with Anna Kournikova as a new trainer. It was down from last fall’s debut by 21%. Parenthood (2.1/6) was down a tenth from last week’s season premiere.

Following a Dancing With the Stars “Meet the Cast” special (2.0/6), the first Dancing result show of the season (2.8/7) was down a sharp 36% from the corresponding episode last year. At 10 PM, procedural Body of Proof (2.3/6) was down 26% from its series premiere in March.

Against increased competition on the major nets, the CW’s new drama Ringer (2 million, 0.9/3 in 18-34) was down 26% in total viewers and 18% in 18-34 from its debut last week.