Now that the fall television season is well underway, which new shows are Chicagoans watching?
According to Nielsen’s weekly report of the top 25 primetime programs in major U.S. markets, six newcomers managed to crack the list in Chicago with their series premieres:
1. NBC’s “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader as a criminal mastermind, came out strongest on Sept. 23 with a total of 482,000 viewers in the Chicago market.
2. The season’s most-anticipated new series, ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” wasn’t too far behind with 438,000 tuning in on Sept. 24.
3. Robin Williams’ return to series TV with the CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones” on Sept. 26 scored 427,000.
4. The ’80s-set sitcom “The Goldbergs,” featuring Chicago comic Jeff Garlin as gruff patriarch, pulled in 361,000 local viewers for ABC on Sept. 24.
5. The “Bad News Bears”-ish comedy “Back in the Game” followed close behind on ABC with 360,000 on Sept. 25.
6. “Sleepy Hollow,” a modern-day retelling of Washington Irving’s classic, posted an audience of 205,000 for its Sept. 16 bow on Fox. (This one debuted earlier than premiere week, so it’s possible that another new show last week got a bigger audience but wasn’t able to make Nielsen’s Top 25 list.)
Of course, it’s still way too early to crown the season’s new hits. Although Fox is clearly headless over heels about “Sleepy Hollow.” It’s the strongest performing new fall drama for the network since the 2001 debut of “24.” Fox announced Thursday that it’s been renewed for a second season.
These numbers only tell part of the story. A few fall shows haven’t even debuted yet, and ratings can drop precipitously in week two (I’m looking at you, Agent Coulson). Some programs undoubtedly got a huge helping hand from a strong lead-in. “The Crazy Ones” aired directly after the ratings juggernaut “The Big Bang Theory,” which opened the season with its largest audience to date (20.4 million nationally; 485,000 locally).
As nice as it may seem to boast a large number of total viewers, advertisers — and therefore broadcast networks — generally want shows that do well with folks in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic (R.I.P. “Harry’s Law”). National Nielsen data from premiere week show five freshman series rank in the Top 20 with adults 18-49: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “The Crazy Ones,” “The Blacklist,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Goldbergs.” Last year there were only two: “Revolution” and “The Neighbors,” according to analyst Brad Adgate of the ad firm Horizon Media.
One more caveat worth mentioning: In today’s atmosphere of time-shifted viewing, ratings statistics like these — looking at the number of people who watch live or within a few hours of that — only tell part of the story. The DVR lift some shows get within three and seven days after airing is helping redefine what constitutes small-screen success.