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Why today's TV hits would once have been considered bombs
With 9 million viewers, New Girl is considered a success — but not long ago, those numbers would have got it cancelled. A guide to the ratings-standard shift
The 9.2 million viewers who tuned in for the "New Girl" season premiere would not have been enough to keep the critically acclaimed Claire Danes' series "My So Called Life" alive in 1994.
The 9.2 million viewers who tuned in for the "New Girl" season premiere would not have been enough to keep the critically acclaimed Claire Danes' series "My So Called Life" alive in 1994.
Autumn Dewilde/FOX
T

hough fall's new TV season has already yielded "hits" like New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, a new report by Margaret Lyons at New York puts today's successes in perspective by comparing their ratings to numbers for (relatively ho-hum) series that aired not too long ago. The upshot: We have shockingly low standards for calling shows hits these days, thanks to the overall ratings splintering that's accompanied the rise of cable TV, online viewing, and DVRs. Here's a statistical look at the shift:

19.4 million
Number of viewers who tuned-in for the premiere of 2 Broke Girls, making it TV's highest rated new show of 2011. That tally inspired Lauren A. E. Schuker at The Wall Street Journal to proclaim this the year of "She TV."

35 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for the premiere of Veronica's Closet, Kirstie Alley's short-lived and widely dismissed sitcom, in 1997, according to New York — almost double the viewers of 2 Broke Girls

27.7 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for the season premiere of Two and a Half Men starring Ashton Kutcher, making it fall's highest-rated premiere

27.3 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for an episode of the sitcom Grace Under Fire in 1995. The episode was a rerun.

9.2 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for the series premiere of Zooey Deschanel's FOX comedy New Girl. Those numbers helped it become the first new show of the fall to be picked up for a full season, says Ann Oldenburg at USA Today.

9.8 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for an October 1994 episode of the teen drama My So-Called Life, which was canceled after one season after languishing in the ratings' bottom 10 for its entire run, according to Entertainment Weekly

6 million
Number of viewers who tuned in for the first episode of Up All Night, the new Christina Applegate parenting comedy that NBC considers a hit

7.6 million
Number of viewers who watched the 1999 premiere of Thanks, a Puritan sitcom that CBS canceled after six episodes. "Thanks had 1.6 million more viewers [than Up All Night]," notes Lyons.

26.8 million

Number of viewers who watched the post-Super Bowl episode of Glee this year

52.4 million
Number of viewers who watched the post-Super Bowl episode of Friends in 2004

12.5 million
Number of viewers who watched the premiere of The X Factor, Fox's highly-promoted big new reality show of 2011

40 million
Number of viewers who watched the premiere of Joe Millionaire, Fox's highly-promoted big new reality show of 2003, according to The New York Times

48
Percent of TV viewing done either online, on-demand, or on DVR and Tivo instead of on live TV, according to Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch

59
Percent of Americans who watch at least some of their TV on another media-viewing device

60
Percent of people who own a digital video recorder (DVR), says David Bauder at the Associated Press

28
Percent increase in ratings for Modern Family when DVR viewing is factored in

Sources: AP, CBS News, Entertainment Weekly, Film Popper, New York, NY Times, Tech Crunch, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Wash. Post, Zap2it

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