'American Idol' ratings fall as sitcoms blow up Fox's Death Star

IDOL

American Idol … it was such an awesomely destructive ratings machine.

Fox’s singing competition series used to have Nielsen numbers so big they were scary. Other networks rearranged their schedules to stay out of Idol‘s destructive path. Showrunners feared having to compete against the program that insiders called “The Death Star.”

Nowadays, that’s no space station. Idol is just another moon in the orbit of primetime, minding its own business, not causing much trouble. Thursday nights are firmly owned by CBS’ Big Bang Theory (feel free to picture Sheldon Cooper in an X-Wing fighter here). And now, Idol is edging behind ABC’s Modern Family on Wednesday nights in the adult demo.

Last night’s Idol had 13.1 million viewers and a 3.8 among adults 18-49. That’s the lowest Idol rating since 2003 and its smallest Wednesday audience since the reality show’s summertime debut in 2002. Modern Family had 10.6 million viewers and a 3.9 rating. This is the first time Modern Family has ever scored a higher rating than Idol in these morning numbers.

Now, a minor caveat. These figures will jockey a bit — Idol will likely rise a tenth in the afternoon nationals to tie Modern Family. But then Modern Family, which benefits more from DVR playback than Idol, will surge ahead once seven days of viewing are added. Either way, the overall trend is clear: Idol has been hitting record lows in comparison to both its previous telecasts and compared to top-rated rival sitcoms. The last three Wednesdays, Idol has gone from a 4.3 preliminary rating to a 4.1 last week and now to a 3.8.

How low will American Idol go this season? Nobody knows. But the Force is no longer strong with this one.

Also, last night, NBC’s Guys With Kids had its first season finale. Will it get renewed?

It will be tough to predict NBC’s renewal decisions this year. The broadcaster’s ratings surged in the fall, then spectacularly crashed after the start of the new year — peacock feathers and the smoking wreckage of new shows scattered across prime time. With NBC’s average numbers in a free fall, it’s tricky to know what’s going to be considered an acceptable performance. Some shows have to come back, right? And so where does that leave Guys With Kids?

The newbie sitcom finished up its run Wednesday evening with a 3.1 rating and a 1.1 average among adults 18-49. To get a pickup, usually a show needs some combination of these five things: Ratings, critical acclaim, fan passion, network ownership, growth potential. NBC’s sister studio does indeed own Guys With Kids, but that’s about it. Even assuming NBC will grade on a curve of a curve of a hairpin turn, these numbers look too low. Same goes for the show’s lead-in, Whitney (3.5 million, 1.2).

It’s a different story for guilty pleasure firefighter soap Chicago Fire at 10 p.m. This hour has been brutal for pretty much every broadcast drama this season. Last night’s pretty typical 6.5 million viewers and a 1.9 won’t earn NBC a parade, but it’s enough heat for Fire to win the hour among adults 18-49 and that makes bringing this show back an easy call. This marks the first time Chicago Fire has beaten CSI in the demo, with the latter falling 22 percent to hit a series low.

Full Chart!

 ADULT DEMO RANK ADULTS 18-49 RATINGS  TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)
FOX 8-10P AMERICAN IDOL #2 3.8 13,148
ABC 8:00P MIDDLE #6 2.1 7,961
8:30P NEIGHBORS #9 1.7 6,122
9:00P MODERN FAMILY #1 3.9 10,594
9:30P SUBURGATRY #5 2.3 6,302
10-11P NASHVILLE #10t 1.6 5,135
CBS 8-9P SURVIVOR #3t 2.6 9,430
9-10P CRIMINAL MINDS #3t 2.6 10,589
10-11P CSI #8 1.8 9,274
NBC 8:00P WHITNEY #12 1.2 3,547
8:30P GUYS-KIDS #13 1.1 3,148
9-10P LAW&O:SVU #10t 1.6 5,581
10-11P CHICAGO FIRE #7 1.9 6,542
CW 8-9P ARROW #14 1.0 3,256
9-10P SUPRNATURAL #15 0.9 2,239

 

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