It was cliffhangers galore on TV last night – and we’re not talking about the delay in Nielsen ratings this morning. There was a shooting on the penultimate episode of Season 2 of Empire (3.6/12) and close games in the NBA playoffs. With a tight 125-121 win on TNT, the Golden State Warriors stamped “paid” on their series with the Portland Trail Blazers and now head to the Western Conference Finals against either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. Earlier in the night, Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals saw the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 99-91 with the teams set to battle again Friday in Game 6.
The basketball drama, along with the Season 1 finale of Underground on WGN America, led to a relatively steady night on the Big 4 and the CW on Wednesday — except if you’re NBC; more on that later.
In the steady category, the Lee Daniels- and Danny Strong-created Empire put one of its main characters in harm’s way to set up next week’s finale. Although it was the night’s top-rated and most-watched show, the Fox series was even among 18-49s with last week’s second-lowest result ever. Viewership-wise, Empire was up 3% over its May 4 episode.
In a season that has seen Live+Same Day declines for the Fox blockbuster, last night’s demo was down 38% from the hip-hop drama’s Season 1 penultimate episode on March 11, 2015. Even with its previous week in the demo. like this week was, that 9 PM Empire drew a forcible 5.8/17 rating and an impressive 14.9 million viewers – up a bit from the previous show. As it did mostly last year, that Season 1 Empire near-ender had an American Idol offering as a lead-in. That’s not the case this year with the weaker Rosewood (1.1/5), which was down a tenth from last week.
Overall, Fox won the night in the demo as it does with Empire with a same-as-last-week 2.4 rating, while CBS was tops again in viewers with 7.11 million watching, which was down 15% from May 4.
Empire wasn’t the only primetime network show in penultimate mode last night as Survivor (2.1/8) saw a winner in sight for its two-hour May 18 season ender. Like Empire, the Mark Burnett-produced reality vet also was even with last week. A double dose of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders at 9PM (1.1/4) and 10 PM (1.1/4) saw the spinoff down 39% from the Criminal Minds season finale in the first slot last week. CM:BB’s regular 10 PM slot had the newbie down a tenth from last week to hit a low in the early numbers.
It was a better and more active night for NBC with Law & Order: SVU (1.4/5) jumping 27% in the 18-49s from last week’s series low. Also hitting a series low on May 4, Chicago P.D. (1.4/5) bopped up 8% last night. Starting NBC’s prime, tepid newbie Heartbeat (0.7/3) was down a tenth.
Over on the CW, Arrow (0.8/3), which is heading toward its own Season 4 finale on May 25, saw a rise of a tenth. Lead-out Supernatural (0.7/2) also was up a tenth among the 18-49s.
It was steady Freddy night on ABC too, with comedies The Middle (1.6/5) and The Goldbergs (1.8/7) down a tenth from last week. Tied with Survivor for the No. 2-rated show of the night, Modern Family (2.1/7) also was down a tenth, while black-ish (1.6/5) was even. Nashville (0.9/3) ended the Disney-owned net’s night with a 13% rise. As the country drama has seen adjustments in later numbers in recent week, it might shift again.