Modern TV history was made last night as one writer-producer not only premiered three drama series back to back, but managed to post hugely impressive ratings in every primetime hour. Shonda Rhimes conquered Thursday night entertainment programming as she unveiled her latest series, How to Get Away with Murder.
ABC’s soapy legal murder mystery starring Viola Davis as a tough defense attorney and law professor delivered a whopping 14 million viewers and a 3.8 rating among adults 18-49 at 10 p.m. Murder tied in the adult demo its lead-in—the fourth season return of Rhimes’ hit D.C. soap Scandal (11.9 million, 3.8). In fact, among total viewers, Murder delivered an even bigger audience than Scandal. While the 11th season premiere of Rhimes’ medical drama Grey’s Anatomy (9.8 million, 3.0) impressively opened the night at 8 p.m. in a time slot that ABC has long struggled to fill. This across-the-board performance is, frankly, pretty incredible.
Compared to last fall, Grey’s took an expected dip from being downshifted to 8 p.m., slipping 12 percent. For a show that’s been on the air for about a decade and has been moved out of its perch, that downtick is very mild. Scandal was actually up 6 percent vs. last year’s 10 p.m. debut. Which means Murder was up also 6 percent from last year’s premiere of Scandal in that slot.
ABC did not win the night, however—CBS’ Thursday Night Football coverage of the New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins game ruled overall. But among entertainment programming there was no contest as ABC’s dramas dominated every hour.
By comparison: NBC’s return of Parenthood (4.3 million, 1.4) at 10 p.m. was crushed. So was Fox’s return of Bones (6.2 million, 1.6), down 30 percent from last fall — Fox is not having a good week. NBC’s The Biggest Loser and a Sleepy Hollow repeat rounded out the rivals.