The TV Season is just getting started, but we’re already seeing something that’s been missing the past few years: new hits! From ABC’s Modern Family to Fox’s The Cleveland Show, CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles, and The CW’s Vampire Diaries, nearly every network has something to brag about. (Sorry, NBC.) Even better for the industry, after years of decline, overall viewership seems to be holding strong, up 3 percent from last year. A look at the biggest winners and losers:
NCIS: CBS’ sleeper hit is now a full-fledged phenomenon. So far this season, the show is averaging 21.9 million viewers, up 23 percent. Half of them don’t fall into that coveted 18- to 49-year-old range, but still. Props.
The Big Bang Theory: CBS’ no-brainer decision to move the geek squad into a time slot after Two and a Half Men has paid off: The comedy’s audience has surged 38 percent.
House: An American Idol lead-in? Who needs it? In its sixth year, the show’s vital stats are still healthy. In fact, its audience has grown 26 percent. In your face, Seacrest!
Fringe: Talk about a sophomore slump. In its second season, the sci-fi mystery is getting clobbered in a tough Thursday time period. ”Thursday night is crazy,” sighs executive producer Jeff Pinkner. ”All of the shows I want to watch are on. But as long as Fox leaves us there, it shows faith [in us].” Still, Fringe seems to be losing momentum: It’s down 26 percent from the season premiere of 7.8 million.
Prime-time Friday: How bad is the karma on Friday night? NBC canceled one series (Southland) before it’d aired even a single episode this season! In fact, nearly every show has declined, from ABC’s Ugly Betty (down 37 percent from last year’s average) to CBS’ Numb3rs (down 18 percent). Dollhouse is also struggling, drawing 1.7 million fewer viewers. Fox says it will air all 13 episodes, but please, not on Fridays. Please?
MOST IMPROVED: CREATIVELY
Parks and Recreation: When it debuted last spring, Amy Poehler’s comedy was a total snooze. But while we were sleeping, it perked up. How? ”I don’t think magical fairy dust was sprinkled over the show,” co-creator Michael Schur says. ”I just think we’re getting better at it.” Indeed. Poehler has dialed down her performance as deputy parks director Leslie Knope, and the strong supporting cast, including Chris Pratt and Rashida Jones, is jelling.
90210: After struggling to find its identity, the reboot has grown into the guilty pleasure we always wanted it to be. Moving AnnaLynne McCord’s immensely entertaining anti-heroine Naomi front and center has certainly helped. ”AnnaLynne has moxie, and I wanted to tap into that,” says Rebecca Sinclair, who took over as showrunner last spring. ”Plus, she’s hilarious.”
— With additional reporting by Archana Ram