By James Hibberd
September 27, 2012 at 03:12 PM EDT

The most acclaimed comedy on TV returned last night along with the most bizarre new sitcom of the fall.

ABC’s Modern Family launched its fourth season Wednesday, accompanied by the network’s jaw-dropping aliens-next-door series The Neighbors, probably the most head-turning high-concept broadcast comedy since ABC rolled out a show starring the Geico cavemen in 2007 (check out Tanner Stransky’s story on how The Neighbors came into existence.)

The Neighbors was seen by 9.3 million viewers and had a 3.3 rating in the adult demo. Its 9 p.m. lead-in, Modern Family, delivered 14.2 million and a 5.5 rating, down a mere 8 percent from last year’s premiere. The Neighbors rating has a minute of overrun from Modern Family in this preliminary number, so it will likely drop a tad when the final numbers are released.

It would be interesting to see how much change there was between the first half of The Neighbors and the post-aliens-reveal second half, but these early ratings only break the night down by the half hour. Overall, given its powerful lead-in, it’s tough to draw too many conclusions about The Neighbors this week, other than viewers weren’t scared off by the concept and were willing to give the show a chance. Would love to know what you guys thought of it. The comedy shifts to 8:30 p.m. next week. A one-hour Middle (9 million, 2.8), down 10 percent, opened ABC’s night.

NBC’s new comedies, however, didn’t fare so well. The Peacock rolled out the regular time-slot premieres of Animal Practice (5.2 million, 1.4) and Guys with Kids (4.8 million, 1.6) during the 8 p.m. hour. Both shows, which previously had pre-season previews, came in fourth place in their respective slots. Animal Practice was down 42 percent from Up All Night‘s premiere in this time period last year. NBC also aired a two hour Law & Order: SVU (7.1 million, 2.1), down 13 percent from last year’s 10 p.m. debut.

Overall, Fox led the night in the adult demo, with The X-Factor (9.4 million, 3.3) dipping only 6 percent despite the heavy increase in competition this week.

CBS was out in front among total viewers, rolling out the season premiere of Criminal Minds (11.1 million, 3.1), down 24 percent (does anybody else still have Mandy Patinkin’s recent jarring criticism rolling through their head?), and CSI (10.8 million, 2.5), down 22 percent. Both dramas had their lowest-rated debuts ever, but that’s pretty much what you’d expect (CSI is 12 years old, has changed its lead actor twice and still won its time period — give it a break, right?). The network also aired Survivor (10.9 million, 3.0).