RSS
Fall TV premiere week: Winners and losers
Following TV's flurry of season premieres and series debuts, a look at which shows broke out — and which flopped spectacularly
"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel and her fellow TV funny women come out on top after a big week of fall premieres.
"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel and her fellow TV funny women come out on top after a big week of fall premieres.
Greg Gayne/FOX
P

remiere week is over, and the ratings are in. Sure, there are still a few stragglers that will premiere over the next month or so, but most shows have already begun, and pundits are eagerly weighing in on which defied expectations, which underwhelmed, and which bombed completely. From dinos to dancing celebrities, here's a look at the winners and losers:

WINNERS

Fall's new funny ladies
"TV executives' big bet on sassy, young ladies got some validation last week as audiences flocked to a spate of new female-friendly comedies," says Lauren A.E. Schuker at The Wall Street Journal. New Girl was Fox's highest-rated premiere in a decade. The comedy, which stars Zooey Deschanel as an "adorkable" teacher who moves in with three guys following a tough breakup, drew 10.3 million viewers — more than the season premiere of Glee. More impressive was the performance of 2 Broke Girls, which drew 19.4 million viewers in its debut, making the CBS sitcom, described as a "modern day Laverne and Shirley," the highest-rated sitcom premiere on any broadcast network in nearly a decade. Even NBC's critically panned Whitney outperformed the network's other comedies, including Community and Parks and Recreation, in its debut.

Pan Am
NBC's The Playboy Club and ABC's Pan Am each made a play at filling the void left by Mad Men's prolonged hiatus, attempting to capitalize on the series' popular '60s nostalgia. ABC wins. Pan Am, the stylish drama about the airline's elite team of stewardesses, debuted to an impressive 11 million viewers, making it the first series to build upon lead-in Desperate Housewives' ratings since Grey's Anatomy did so in 2006, says New York's Josef Adalian. Pan Am even outdrew CBS' The Good Wife on Sunday — remarkable considering "the passionate buzz which surrounds [The Good Wife], last week's Emmy win, and CBS' tireless efforts to get folks to watch."

Returning comedies
"Remember when everyone was pronouncing the death of comedy a few seasons ago?" asks Adalian. Consider comedy resurrected. Not only was Modern Family's third-season premiere its highest-rated ever, but its 14.3 million viewers actually outdrew the much-ballyhooed debut of Simon Cowell's The X Factor. The next night, CBS' The Big Bang Theory was the highest-rated program, eclipsing the second episode of The X Factor. The season premiere Monday night of Mike and Molly, which just won a surprise Emmy for star Melissa McCarthy, was the show's highest-rated episode yet, while How I Met Your Mother, Raising Hope, and The Middle all debuted strongly as well.

Charlie Sheen
The season premiere of Two and a Half Men, the first with Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen, was the most-watched comedy episode since 2005. But the 28 million viewers reflect Sheen's popularity more than Kutcher's, or even that of the CBS sitcom itself, says Bill Carter at The New York Times. The massive ratings are a result of the public's curiosity over how the sitcom was going to handle his firing. Though he wasn't in it, the episode was "all about him." When you add in the record ratings from the Comedy Central roast of Sheen, it's clear the actor is still "winning."

LOSERS

Charlie Sheen
Actually, the 28 million pairs of eyeballs glued to the Two and a Half Men premiere is a bona fide victory for Kutcher, says Shelley Fralic at The Vancouver Sun. The ratings dwarfed those of Sheen's last episode on the series, meaning Kutcher "more than fulfilled his goal" of saving TV's top sitcom from demise. That the second episode of the season drew another 20 million viewers Monday night cements Kutcher's status as a ratings draw. Sorry, Charlie.

Reality TV
The X Factor, Simon Cowell's reality singing competition, which Fox had clearly banked on becoming another American Idol-level hit, had an unexpectedly dismal debut. The premiere's 12.7 million viewers failed to best last season's Idol opener or even the launch this spring of The Voice. What "a disappointment," says TV Fanatic. The premieres of Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, and The Amazing Race were also all down compared to last season. As for the premiere of H8R — the CW reality series in which "celebrities" like Snooki meet people who, well, hate them — "Dora the Explorer on Nick Jr. tied it in viewers 18-34," says Adalian.

The Playboy Club
There's no getting around it, says Linda Holmes at NPR. The debut of NBC's The Playboy Club "was very weak," especially when compared to the success of Pan Am. Given the hype over whether this show would be "too sexy" for prime-time TV, its "less-than sexy" debut of just 5 million viewers is a major disappointment, says Daniel Fienberg at HitFix. Its second episode aired Monday night to an anemic 3.8 million viewers, indicating that the Club may soon be closing.

Terra Nova
With a pilot rumored to be the most expensive ever, a relentless marketing campaign, and Steven Spielberg as a producer, expectations were high for the premiere of the action-packed dinosaur drama Terra Nova. Fox can't be happy that the splashy two-hour debut mustered just 9 million viewers. "Given the huge investment," says Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly, "Steven Spielberg had to have wanted something higher for the time-traveling extravaganza." Terra Nova finished in third place in its time slot, behind CBS' comedy lineup and the lowest-rated Dancing With the Stars performance episode ever.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week