Snapshot updated with finals: New-ish series premiere: NBC’s Will & Grace (3.0 in 18-49, 10.2 million); Returning series premieres: ABC’s Grey‘s Anatomy (2.3, 8.1 million viewers, on par with last year), Great News sets series high, HTGAWM & Chicago Fire down vs. 2016, The Good Place inches up, The Orville steady in Week 2, Gotham posts low.
Will & Grace is back! Supported by a massive promotional push, strong reviews and a bit of nostalgia, the former NBC Must See TV comedy made a seamless return to its old Thursday 9 PM slot as the top entertainment program of the night, drawing a 3.0 adults 18-49 Live+Same Day rating and 10.2 million viewers.
It was the comedy hit NBC has been searching for since The Office ended its run. In fact, the Will & Grace return, which might have been helped by the Thursday Night Football weather delay, was NBC’s highest-rated comedy telecast (excluding post-Olympic previews) since the Office series finale in May 2013 (3.0).
And something even more remarkable: Will & Grace‘s Season 9 premiere last night was up from the comedy’s eighth-season opener 12 years ago, on September 29, 2005 (9.81 million). In total viewers, last night’s opener outperformed both the Season 7 and Season 8 averages for Will & Grace, which aired at a time when the total number of original scripted series was less than half of what it is today, DVR was in its infancy and SVOD was nonexistent, with Netflix still exclusively in the DVD-by-mail business. Even in the adults 18-49 demographic, Will & Grace’s return is down a modest 17% from its last season premiere 12 years ago. That is less than the declines many returning series have been posting vs. last year.
Veteran Will & Grace, which already has been renewed for another season, was like Gulliver among Lilliputians on NBC’s Thursday schedule last night, underscoring the gap between the broad appeal of NBC’s sitcoms from the last decade and the more niche play for the recent crop of single-camera comedies. Still, there was an element of the tide lifting all ships, with the other NBC half-hours getting small boosts. Superstore (1.3, after upward adjustment in the finals, down 13% from last fall’s season premiere) and The Good Place (1.4, up a tenth from last week’s season premiere) set new top Thursday ratings since last October.
Sophomore Great News (1.4 after upward adjustment, 5.2 million viewers), which landed the plum post-Will & Grace slot, did not prove a very suitable companion. Its Season 2 premiere, which featured executive producer Tina Fey making her debut in a recurring role, held on to half of its big lead-in. Still, this qualifies as new series high for the workplace comedy in 18-49 and total viewers, edging the 1.2 and 5.1 million for its April 25 telecast behind The Voice. At 10 PM, Chicago Fire (1.5) was down 20% from last fall’s premiere but in line with its season average, posting NBC’s best rating with non-sports regular programming in the slot in two years.
Powered by the return of Will & Grace, NBC posted its most-watched Premiere Thursday (6.5 million) in nine years.
The only broadcast series on last night, Grey’s Anatomy — which aired during Will & Grace‘s original run — still is going strong. The Shonda Rhimes medical drama opened its 14th season last night to a 2.3 rating in 18-49 and 8.1 million viewers from 8-10 PM, its best numbers since February. That was just a tenth off the fast national for the veteran series’ season premiere last year and virtually on par in viewers (8.1 million vs. 8.6 million). However, How to Get Away with Murder (1.0 after a downward adjustment, 4 million), which has relied heavily on DVR/SVOD bumps, was off by -29% in the demo to log its lowest-rated premiere to date.
Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville (1.1) is showing some spunk. Against increased competition, including football, the space dramedy held on to its demo rating from last week and built onto its lead-in, Gotham (0.9 after upward adjustment), which slipped 10% from its season premiere last Thursday to a new L+SD series low.
CBS is projected to win the demo race in adults 18-49, even thought its with Thursday Night Football game was down in the ratings.