‘Heroes’ to the rescue for Peacock

NBC put faith into superhero sudser

After an opening week of the season when no new show bowed with any gusto, the broadcast nets were rescued by an unlikely band of “Heroes.”

Considerably more attention was paid to the Peacock’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and the Eye’s “Shark” and “The Class,” but the best early returns came from NBC’s “Heroes.” The Peacock is hoping the sci-fi hour about a group of ordinary people who discover they have superpowers can help dig it out of fourth place.

Its Sept. 25 bow averaged a hearty 5.9 rating/14 share in adults 18-49, growing 55% from its solid “Deal or No Deal” lead-in and winning its time period, according to Nielsen.

That put it just a tick behind ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” (6.0/15) as the season’s top-rated premiere, but “Brothers” enjoyed a much stronger lead-in courtesy of “Desperate Housewives.”

In other good signs for NBC, “Heroes” grew nicely in its second half-hour and also exhibited an ideal gender and age balance. Its 18-49 aud was 55% female, and it pulled in a 15 share in demos as varied as men 18-34 and women 25-54.

Perhaps the optimism of “Heroes” won out for viewers over darker newbies with seemingly interchangeable names like “Vanished,” “Standoff,” “Kidnapped” and “Runaway.”

Some other early-season observations:

  • Fox has had modest success with its new dramas, but it continues to struggle with comedy — at least of the live-action variety.

Toons “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad” are doing well on Sunday, but that lineup skids when “The War at Home” comes on at 9:30. And the Thursday rookie duo “‘Til Death” and “Happy Hour” have been unable to attract an aud.

Without “That ’70s Show” as a launching pad, it is incumbent on the net to use “American Idol” to help launch a live-action laffer.

  • Half-hour comedy continues to be hard for all the nets, actually. The top comedy in premiere week was CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” but it merely ranked 15th among all programs in adults 18-49.

The Eye’s “Class” opened OK and dropped about 20% in week two, but the net’s in it for the long haul. And it’s too early to gauge Ted Danson’s latest, “Help Me Help You,” which bowed last week on ABC behind “Dancing With the Stars.”

  • NBC’s “Studio 60” drew the wealthiest young-adult aud of any show during premiere week. Show was indexed at a 149 among adults 18-49 living in homes with incomes of $100,000 or more — that means its aud is 49% more likely to be in this bracket than the average population.

Other top newbies were ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” (136), NBC’s “Kidnapped” (119) and CBS’ “Shark” (117). NBC’s returning “The Office” (138) was the top laffer and No. 2 program overall.

  • A few shows that lost ratings steam last season after good starts have not rebounded in the early going this fall. NBC’s “My Name Is Earl,” ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and CBS’ “The Unit” don’t look as formidable as they once were.

“Earl,” which opened to a 6.6 rating in September 2005 and was hovering around a 4 by spring 2006, opened to a 3.8 rating in its tough new leadoff slot on Thursday.

“The Unit,” which averaged a 5.0 for its first three airings in March and wrapped the season with a 4.2, kicked off its second season with a 3.4.

And “Desperate Housewives” may have opened last season with a 12.3 rating, but it fell off from there. Its season preem score (9.6) was more in line with its sweeps average from May (8.8).

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