'Nashville' ratings smother 'Chicago Fire'

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Nashville, the best-reviewed new drama of the fall, premiered to solid ratings Wednesday night, while The CW’s new action-drama Arrow set a record for the network.

ABC’s country music drama delivered 9 million viewers and a 2.8 rating among adults 18-49. That’s enough to win the hour in the adult demo, topping CBS’ CSI (10.6 million, 2.6) and the premiere of NBC’s new series Chicago Fire (6.4 million, 1.9). But Nashville was down 15 percent from the launch of Revenge in this slot last year. NBC’s fire-fighting drama was largely panned by critics and had a disappointing launch, down 21 percent from the debut of Law & Order: SVU in this slot last fall. (Nashville averaged a score of 84 on Metacritic while Chicago Fire had a 49).

Yet here’s something interesting: Of the three dramas in the hour, the Connie Britton series had the weakest audience retention from its first half to its second. Chicago Fire didn’t shed any of its demo rating between its half hours — which is pretty rare for a show premiering this late at night. Nashville may have a bigger rating, but Chicago Fire did a better job of keeping viewers in their seat.

Another key debut last night: The CW’s Arrow (4 million, 1.3 rating) got off to a fine start. This may not be a huge demo rating for the network, but Arrow marks The CW’s most-watched series debut in total viewers since The Vampire Diaries in 2009. The CW’s mission this season is to attract a broader audience than just the Gossip Girl/90210 female 18-34 crowd, and hitting 4 million viewers certainly helps. The performance is also impressive considering the network’s numbers have been soft the past couple weeks. It’s always tougher to jump start a cold engine. Arrow also gave Supernatural (2.6 million, 1.0) a boost at 9 p.m., spiking the veteran drama to its biggest audience in two years.

Fox topped the night in the adult demo thanks to a steady The X-Factor (9.4 million, 3.4).

CBS was second with Survivor (9.6 million, 2.6) and Criminal Minds (11.4 million, 3.0).

ABC had The Middle (7.8 million, 2.4), up 9 percent, and The Neighbors (6.3 million, 1.9), steady. They were followed by a double tap of Modern Family (12 million, 4.7 and 12.2 million, 4.9), down between 11 and 15 percent.

The Neighbors has clearly emerged as the weak link in the network’s Wednesday comedy chain, but last night also suggested the show might be stabilizing since it did not drop this week. This puts ABC in a tough position. The aliens-next-door sitcom doesn’t have a terrible number by this fall’s standards, but you don’t want to have anything potentially dragging down your top-rated comedy, Modern Family.

NBC also had Animal Practice (3.9 million, 1.1), Guys With Kids (4.2 million, 1.4) and SVU (6.2 million, 1.8).

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