“The Big Bang Theory” exploded like a supernova Thursday night — drawing 19.72 million viewers for its two-episode season premiere on CBS.
It was a big welcome for the sitcom’s return for its seventh season, and further evidence (as if we needed any) that it remains the nation’s most popular comedy series.
Specifically, “Big Bang” drew 18.99 million viewers for its first half-hour at 8/7c, and a whopping 20.44 million for its second episode at 8:30, according to national Nielsen numbers released late on Friday.
The 20.44 million-viewer audience was the largest-ever for a “Big Bang Theory” episode, CBS noted. It was also the highest-rated show on prime-time TV this week — the first official week of the new fall TV season — even surpassing the 20.02 million who tuned in Tuesday night for the season premiere of “NCIS,” also on CBS.
“The Big Bang Theory” crushed all of its competition and set the table for the series premiere of the new Robin Williams sitcom, “The Crazy Ones,” at 9/8c and the season premiere of “Two and a Half Men” at 9:30. Those two CBS shows had 15.52 million and 11.59 million viewers respectively.
Rounding out the night for CBS: The season premiere of “Elementary” at 10/9c, which had 10.18 million, according to Nielsen.
CBS won every half-hour over the three hours of prime time on the first Thursday night of the new season. The show that came closest on any other network was ABC’s two-hour premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy,” which averaged 9.27 million viewers from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (8-10c).
In other ratings highlights from Thursday night: At 8/7c, the one-hour return of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” had 3.27 million viewers. At 9, the series premiere of “The Michael J. Fox Show” on NBC had 7.5 million. The season premiere of “Glee” on Fox drew 5.06 million viewers at 9/8c.