Thursday Night Ratings Battle: Who Came Out On Top?

by | September 24, 2010 at 2:16 PM | 30 Rock, Community, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Ratings, The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, The Office, TV News

NBC’s Thursday night comedies can’t catch a break.  They’re revered by many and acclaimed by critics, but when it comes to the ratings, they still get trounced.

And that’s what happened Thursday night when ‘Community,’ ‘30 Rock’ and ‘The Office’ returned for their new seasons and hit a roadblock named CBS, which gambled on moving its former Monday hit ‘The Big Bang Theory’ to 8 p.m. Thursdays and won big.

‘Big Bang’ started its fourth season in its new time period with 14 million viewers, according to Nielsen – an increase of 970,000 viewers over its season premiere last fall on Monday night.  The CBS nerd-com clobbered ‘Community,’ which attracted just 5 million viewers in its return for its second season, despite guest-star Betty White (although it’s possible even the beloved Betty White is starting to wear out her welcome).

From that point on, CBS was off and running, while NBC struggled to find an audience.  At 8:30, the premiere of the new William Shatner sitcom on CBS, ‘$#*! My Dad Says,’ took advantage of its ‘Big Bang’ lead-in to attract 12.5 million viewers, soundly beating ‘30 Rock,’ which returned for its fifth season with guest-star Matt Damon, but brought in only 5.9 million viewers.

Watch Matt Damon’s Guest Spot on ’30 Rock:’

The news was somewhat better for ‘The Office,’ which improved on the ‘30 Rock’ tally with 8.4 million viewers at 9 p.m., NBC’s best showing on the night.   Those numbers were enough to give NBC’s new 9:30 sitcom, ‘Outsourced,’ an audience of 7.4 million, nearly half of whom went elsewhere by the time ‘The Apprentice’ rolled around at 10 p.m.  Donald Trump and company could only muster a lowly 3.9 million viewers.

The night belonged to CBS, whose audience just kept building throughout the evening.  At 9, the seventh-season premiere of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on ABC gave the 11th season premiere of ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ on CBS a run for its money.  But ‘CSI’ won with 14.6 million viewers vs. 14 million for ‘Grey’s.’

What was Thursday’s top show?  None other than ‘The Mentalist’ at 10, returning for its third season and drawing an audience of 15.3 million.  The fourth-season premiere of ‘Private Practice’ in the same time period on ABC drew 9 million.

One of the evening’s big disappointments, at least from ABC’s point-of-view, had to be the premiere of the new drama ‘My Generation,’ which drew just 5.2 million viewers from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.  That hour was just too full of other things to watch, including the sixth-season premiere of ‘Bones’ on Fox for which 9.2 million tuned in.  Fox lost 3 million of those viewers at 9 p.m. with the third-season premiere of ‘Fringe,’ which was watched by 6.1 million.

You have to wonder how long NBC will stick with its lineup of low-rated comedies on Thursday night.  On the other hand, the comedy business is a good one to be in if you’re a TV network.  Just look at all reruns of ‘The Office’ airing everywhere these days, raking in revenue in syndication that makes the relatively low ratings on NBC a lot easier to swallow.

Did you watch the new episodes of the NBC comedies Thursday night?  Do you still like them?  Why do you think these shows, which are all particularly well-done and almost universally praised, still find themselves struggling in the ratings?