We Get More Than We Deserve:
The Top 20 Shows of 2011-2012
What was the highest-rating show of the 2011-2012 season? I’ll give you a clue: It’s not American Idol. The full series rankings for the year have been released, and for those upset about their favorite shows being cancelled, there’s some fascinating reading to be found.
Firstly, the answer to my first question is Sunday Night Football on NBC; American Idol does do very well – it gets two places in the top 5 shows for its two weekly editions – but you’d think that NBC would do more promotion about the fact that its weekly sports show gets more viewers overall, wouldn’t you…? Actually, what’s odd about the top of the chart is seeing NBC so prevalent, with Sunday Night Football, The Voice (and its result show) and Football Night America all showing up in the top 15 – For all the common wisdom that the network is completely falling apart, that’s still something to crow about, surely…?
The full ranking for the year is available here, but here’re the top 20 shows of the year in terms of the all-important 18-49 age group demographic (AKA, who the advertisers, and therefore networks, actually care about):
1. NBC NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
2. FOX AMERICAN IDOL-WEDNESDAY
3. NBC VOICE
4. ABC MODERN FAMILY
5. FOX AMERICAN IDOL-THURSDAY
6. CBS BIG BANG THEORY, THE
7. CBS TWO AND A HALF MEN
8. FOX X-FACTOR-WED
9. CBS 2 BROKE GIRLS
10. ABC GREY’S ANATOMY
11. NBC FOOTBALL NT AMERICA PT 3
12. FOX NEW GIRL
13. FOX X-FACTOR-THU
14. NBC VOICE:RESULTS SHOW
15. CBS HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
16. ABC ONCE UPON A TIME
17. CBS NCIS
18. CBS SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC
19. FOX FAMILY GUY
20. CBS MIKE & MOLLY
On first blush, CBS should feel ridiculously happy with its Monday night mediocre comedy block, which manages to make it into the top 20 in its entirety (Even Mike & Molly), which… proves that people really want to laugh on Monday, I guess. That or that people are really happy with terrible comedies. Also interesting is seeing the massive success of new shows 2 Broke Girls, New Girl and Once Upon A Time – Remember when people were concerned that making shows with a core female demographic appeal might be a risky move? Apparently they had nothing to worry about.
(In case you’re wondering, in terms of total viewers the chart has some interesting changes, with all of the CBS comedies dropping out, as well as Grey’s Anatomy, Family Guy and New Girl, replaced by procedurals like CSI, The Mentalist and Castle. Now we know who watches those shows: Your parents and grandparents.)
Further down the chart, there are some interesting discoveries: Fox’s cancelled Terra Nova makes it in at #24, which puts it higher than NCIS: Los Angeles, The Office, Person of Interest, The Simpsons and many other shows that made it back next year; guess that it was just too expensive to keep around. Similarly, the cancelled Alcatraz pops up at #30, one place higher than House (and two higher than Person of Interest), suggesting that it may have lived on at another network.
Across the board, you can see that Fox’s cancellation threshold is higher than other networks – Aside from Fringe, which charts so low that you pretty much have to think that Fox renewed it because they wanted to keep JJ Abrams friendly after offing Alcatraz (It’s at #105 on the chart, the lowest scripted show on the network other than Breaking In) – and that whatever CBS and ABC are doing, it’s definitely working out well for them; even relative failures on those networks like the former’s Rob chart high enough to put better shows on other networks to shame.
It’s also a lesson in implied economics. How can The Sing-Off, which ranks at #97 on the chart, be renewed when the higher-rated Playboy Club was yanked off the air by the same network? Well, clearly because it’s so much cheaper to produce.
There are some depressing surprises in the lower results: NBC’s Awake and Chuck rank amazingly low, and it’s easy to see why shows like Charlie’s Angels or The Firm were pulled so quickly: People just weren’t watching them. That may be the main thing to learn from looking at which shows are actually being watched, and which aren’t – That, despite all the grumbling and moaning about what makes it to the air, we’re actually kind of lucky that networks aren’t only chasing the ratings. Because, if they were, for real…? Prime time television would just be hundreds of Mike & Mollys and Two & A Half Mens and reality shows and little else. If nothing else, give the networks credit for offering some variety.