It looks like the “Slayer” is going to be a player on UPN after all.
Two-hour preem of former WB drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” posted some all-time best scores in its first UPN airing Tuesday — a strong sign the netlet may have gambled correctly by agreeing to fork over $2.3 million per episode for the Joss Whedon creation.
There was mixed news on Tuesday’s comedy front, meanwhile, as ABC’s “Bob Patterson” opened to meager marks while NBC’s “Scrubs” cleaned up in its debut. Audience turnout for both seemed to mirror their divergent reviews, as “Patterson” received some of the fall’s worst notices and “Scrubs” some of the best.
Overall, everybody but ABC — whose entire Tuesday now looks shaky — had reason to smile about the night’s results. CBS won in total viewers, NBC took adults 18-49 and 25-54 and Fox was tops in 18-34, according to Nielsen.
UPN’s winning Tuesday
“Buffy” on Tuesday attracted its second-largest audience ever (7.65 million) and achieved its best-ever ratings in 18-49 (3.8/10), adults 18-34 (4.8/14), as well as the male and female breakdowns in both. It also gave UPN its best Tuesday ever in key demos.
Compared with its (albeit tame) Tuesday averages last season, UPN was up by 168% in total viewers and by 217% in 18-49.
UPN topper Dean Valentine said that while “Buffy’s” numbers will almost certainly come down next week opposite the premiere of the WB’s “Gilmore Girls,” the show’s preem rating proves it’ll be a long-term asset for the net.
“This number won’t go on for the rest of the season, but clearly, we now have a foothold at 8 p.m. on two nights of the week,” he said, referring to last week’s strong premiere for “Enterprise.”
“Our schedule is now in the best position structurally it’s ever been in.”
Whedon said Wednesday he and everyone else on the “Buffy” set had “a little more bounce in our step today, which is a good thing since we’re shooting a musical episode.
“I don’t usually look at ratings … (but) I’m pretty damn thrilled,” Whedon said of the numbers.
As expected, “Buffy” on UPN will play to a more male crowd than on the heavily femme WB. For example, while the drama played to an aud that was 41.1% male on the Frog net last season, its Tuesday turnout on the testosterone net was 46.6% male.
“It’s a broader show now that it’s on our air,” Valentine said. “The show has much more balanced demos.”
Boffo perf was even more impressive since UPN was distributed in just 80% of the country Tuesday. The WB, on the other hand, was cleared in 88% for “Buffy’s” season finale in May.
Overall, “Buffy’s” boffo bow outrated any night of programming ever on UPN archrival the WB among key demo groups, including adults 18-34 and 18-49.
‘Patterson’ needs help
Elsewhere Tuesday, ABC’s “Bob Patterson” (9.79m, 4.3/10 in A18-49) was largely ignored by viewers, finishing with a lower 18-49 rating than every firstrun episode of “Dharma & Greg” to air in the same 9 o’clock slot in the past two seasons.
It finished second in 18-49 and third in viewers, but the results are disappointing for such a high-profile premiere. The Jason Alexander starrer has the added pressure of having to establish itself in the 9 p.m. anchor slot, opposite NBC’s “Frasier.”
ABC also has problems in the opening hour, where “Dharma & Greg” (8.41m, 3.3/9 in 18-49) and the season premiere of “What About Joan” (8.70m, 3.5/9) barely topped NBC’s combo of “Emeril” (7.38m, 3.1/9) and “Three Sisters” (7.65m, 3.5/9).
NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker continues to stick by “Emeril.”
“We’re really pleased with the show’s demo performance,” he said.
But viewers clearly were more interested in checking out NBC’s quirky hospital laffer “Scrubs,” which won its hour in all key measures, including 18-49 (6.9/16) and total viewers (15.45m).
“Scrubs” brought more and younger male viewers to NBC. Compared to lead-in “Frasier,” “Scrubs” preem was down 1% in adults 18-49, but up 5% in adults 18-34 and 12% in men 18-34.
Fox took the night’s opening hour in adults 18-49, as “That ’70s Show” (5.4/15) and “Undeclared” (4.9/13) were off only slightly from their preems. “Undeclared” improved week-to-week in teens (4.9/17 vs. 4.6/16) — a good sign, especially opposite the strong “Buffy” competish.
At 9, “Love Cruise” delivered another credible score (3.8/9 in 18-49), up a couple of ticks from last week.
CBS again easily won the night in total viewers (15.2 million), topping second-place NBC by 2.4 million. Net also moved up to second in 25-54 and a second-place tie with ABC in 18-49.
Eye’s “JAG” and “The Guardian” both dropped off among younger viewers, but retained about 90% of their overall premiere-week auds. “JAG” won its hour in viewers (15.92m), women 25-54 (6.4/14) and adults 25-54 (5.5/13) and was second in 18-49 (4.0/11), while “The Guardian” was second to NBC’s laffers in viewers (14.07m) and women 25-54 (6.2/13).
At 10, “Judging Amy” (15.76m, 4.7/12 in A18-49) improved upon its preem numbers, winning in viewers and topping ABC’s “Philly” (10.21m, 4.2/11 in A18-49) by most measures. Both “Amy” and “Philly” lost out in 18-49 to NBC’s “Dateline” (5.9/15).
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)