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Fall TV progress report

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It’s rough out there for a freshman. Just weeks into the 2010-11 TV season, two new network shows have already been canned, and not one new series has cracked the top 10. But it’s not all bad news. We take a look at what’s making it in today’s tough climate — and why.

Everything old is hot again.
Reboots of Hawaii Five-0 and Law & Order, along with new programs showcasing TV veterans like Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods), Jim Belushi (The Defenders), and William Shatner ($#*! My Dad Says), meant far more to TV fans than new entries featuring a sea of (virtually) unknown youths. We’re talking about you, My Generation: ABC’s faux docudrama about a high school class that meets up 10 years after graduation got the boot when viewership dropped to a mere 3.8 million on Sept. 30. CBS, in comparison, may be skewing old with those aging stars (the network’s median viewer age is 54.6), but it’s hardly repelling the kids: The network won the first week of the season among total viewers (12.5 million) and in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic, while airing all five of the top new shows.

Great reviews and big names don’t always translate to ratings.
Critical acclaim couldn’t save Lone Star, which was axed after just two weeks when its audience dropped from 4.1 million to 3.2 million. The auspices of J.J. Abrams haven’t done much good for NBC’s Undercovers, which is averaging only 8 million. And the news is even worse for Running Wilde, Fox’s single-camera comedy starring the brilliant duo of Will Arnett and Keri Russell: It’s drummed up a meager 5 million viewers on average and looks like the next candidate for cancellation if ABC’s courtroom drama The Whole Truth (4.7 million), featuring the beloved Maura Tierney, doesn’t get yanked first.

A slow freshman class gives sophomores a chance to shine — and allows Glee to make history.
Fox’s musical dramedy became the first show in 17 years to build upon its season-premiere performance. Thanks to some savvy deployment of Britney Spears, Glee was up in viewership its second week back (13.5 million compared with 12.5 million). The last show to do that was Seinfeld in 1993.

Changing time slots can pay off.
While rescheduling has been the kiss of death for other shows (see: Fringe), The Big Bang Theory and Survivor have shown that viewers will follow their favorite series if the quality remains. Despite moving to the most competitive night of the week, Bang is handily winning its new Thursday time slot among adults 18-49, beating out Community and The Vampire Diaries. And Survivor is surviving splendidly on Wednesdays (though it’ll be interesting to see if it can maintain those 12.4 million viewers now that ex-NFL coach Jimmy Johnson is off the show). Meanwhile, The CW’s decision to move Supernatural to Fridays behind Smallville gave the network its best performance in the time slot in two years, with the premiere attracting 2.9 million viewers.

Donald Trump, you are so fired.
A revamped edition of The Apprentice that features no-name contestants who’ve been hurt by the bad economy has posted record lows (the Sept. 30 episode, at 3.6 million, was the franchise’s least watched episode ever). Maybe the Donald should be sticking with those celebrity editions — the next one is slated for January — rather than trying to, ahem, borrow a page from the recession-friendly fan favorite Undercover Boss.

The Most Watched New Shows
Hawaii Five-0 13.5 mil
Blue Bloods 12.2 mil
The Defenders 11.3 mil
$#*! My Dad Says 11.5 mil
Mike & Molly 11.7 mil

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