Loser: The Walking Dead (AMC)
The former mega-hit’s ratings have dropped to about 5 million a week for season 9 and an all-time low in the adult demo. AMC’s ads blaring that star Andrew Lincoln will be the next beloved cast member to leave probably aren’t helping. A TV show isn’t like a zombie — you can only cut off so many limbs and expect it to keep going.
Winner: Manifest (NBC)
It’s been 14 years since ABC’s Lost, yet NBC is averaging 11 million viewers for another ensemble mystery-thriller about a group of airline passengers. Manifest stars primetime cornea candy Josh Dallas and is tying Grey’s Anatomy as the second highest-rated drama on broadcast this fall (and doesn’t even have a smoke monster).
Winner: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
Maybe TV critics are the only people watching this show — who can tell, with Netflix’s refusal to release their secret viewership numbers that might give us ammo to beat up on Iron Fist? But the horror series loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s classic novel is generating strong reviews (averaging 80 percent on Metacritic) and plenty of buzz, including a news report claiming subscribers are literally vomiting in terror. So that’s a win in our books.
Viewers have griped about the reboot trend for years. Networks might be forced to agree now that three high-profile familiar titles had surprisingly soft launches: CBS’ youthful recasting of Magnum P.I., a revival of Murphy Brown that brought the original cast back after a 20-year hiatus, and (to a less-disappointing degree) The CW’s modernday remix of Charmed. So perhaps Sliders: 2020 might not happen after all?
Winner: Last Man Standing (Fox)
There’s nothing quite like getting publicly dumped only to rebound with a far better relationship. Tim Allen’s sitcom is getting its best ratings in years on Fridays (averaging 8 million viewers) and easily ranking as the night’s top show — why, in the adult demo it’s averaging only a tenth of a point behind ABC’s Modern Family.
Loser: The Alec Baldwin Show (ABC)
Only one episode has aired so far, so things could still improve, but the actor’s talk show tripped spectacularly out of the gate. Not only was it the lowest-rated show on Sunday for its premiere, the program had the smallest audience (2.1 million viewers) across all major network shows so far this fall (tying something called Child Support that we’re not even sure is a real thing).
Winner: New Amsterdam (NBC)
The aspirational drama about a medical director (Ryan Eggold) turning a hospital into what everybody wishes hospitals were like is a surprising breakout success considering it received modest reviews. It’s a little sad, though, that NBC can get nearly 10 million viewers a week by simply depicting a vision of American health care where patients are treated with kindness and respect.
Loser: Lethal Weapon (Fox)
A mess. When this L.A. detective drama first launched two years ago it kinda hit. Then star Clayne Crawford was dumped in May due to alleged on-set misbehavior. Then Seann William Scott was hired to replace Crawford. Now Damon Wayans has declared he’s quitting, leaving Stifler stiffed. The show might get canceled after its 15 episodes air this season. We’re pretty sure this photo isn’t a publicity shot but is actually what it’s like on set right now.
Winner & Loser: The Conners (ABC)
Such a weird ratings story: The Conners premiere did a great number (10.4 million viewers) that looked small due to inevitable comparisons with last spring’s blockbuster return of Roseanne. Was this the first episode of a new show? Or the series finale of an old show? Both? What that means moving forward is anybody’s guess.
Winner: NFL Football
Reports of the sport’s demise amid the whole kneeling debate have been premature. NBC’s Sunday Night Football has been averaging 20.2 million viewers — its best season opening since its record 2015 season. Across all networks, NFL viewership is up 2 percent for the season. Sure, that’s not much, but these days the thing that goes Up goes in the Win column.
CBS’ new and so very-CBS-like procedural FBI, Fox’s new retirement home comedy The Cool Kids, and ABC’s new ensemble comedy Single Parents. They’re fine.