Comedies off to strong start as TV season begins

Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:29am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If the opening of the fall TV season has proved one thing so far, it's that comedy has reclaimed the broadcast throne.

After the genre made promising gains last season with the launch of game-changers "Modern Family" and "Glee," this year's first couple of weeks of premieres are forming a pattern: popular comedies are returning to steady or better ratings than last year, and top dramas are coming back to lower numbers -- sometimes, a lot lower.

Of the seven highest-rated premieres so far, five were comedies. There was Fox's "Glee" (5.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, up 60%; each ratings point in that demo equals about 1.3 million viewers), ABC's "Modern Family" (5.1, up 21%), NBC's "The Office" (4.4, up 7%), "CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" (4.9, up 4%) and "Two and a Half Men" (4.9, up 10%).

Of the two other top premieres, one was a drama (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"; 5.4, down 21%) and the other was a reality show (ABC's "Dancing With the Stars"; 5.1, up 24%).

The "Grey's" slump was not without company. Part of the issue is the oft-reported observation that many of TV's dramas are a bit long in the tooth. Veteran series "House" (4.2) was down 37%, "CSI" (3.4) -- despite a guest appearance by Justin Bieber -- fell 17%, and "NCIS" (4.0) was down 17%.

Ratings for new shows followed a predictable bell-curve pattern of a couple delivering truly impressive opens, several performing solidly and a handful that blew up at the starting gate.

"Everybody has something to feel good about," CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said.

Especially CBS, which is off to a great start. On Monday, "Hawaii Five-0" (3.9) didn't create quite the splash that many expected, though its rating is formidable, and freshman "Mike & Molly" (3.9) managed to be the second-highest-rated comedy in the network's block. Tuesday legal drama "The Defenders" (2.9) wasn't spectacular but didn't embarrass either. Thursday's "$#*! My Dad Says" (4.0) opened terrific. And on Friday, despite rumors of a troubled production, "Blue Bloods" (2.2) performed solidly in a tough time period and even won the night.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Matthew Morrison (L) and John Stamos smile at the premiere of the second season of the television series "Glee" at Paramount studios in Los Angeles September 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>