“Chuck” vs. the iTunes

Josh Schwartz’s two new hours– NBC’s “Chuck” and CW’s “Gossip Girl”– have gotten off to decent starts in the Nielsen ratings.  Apple’s iTunes Store is a whole other matter.

Both shows have been iTunes smashes since they debuted, with each instantly landing in the top 5 list of most downloaded episodes. And as of just before 6 p.m. PT Friday night, there was no sign they were cooling down.

Chuck
The teen-friendly “Gossip Girl” is proving to be one of the popular girls, with two separate episodes holding down the No. 2 and No. 4 spots on the iTunes episodic download list. “Chuck” is no slouch, either: The Oct. 1 episode is No. 6, while the pilot is No. 9.

While Schwartz’s shows are the only newcomers in the top 10, Fox frosh “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Back to You” have cracked the top 20, ranking No. 17 and 18, respectively.

Hollywood types have been following the iTunes chart closely ever since NBC starting arguing that big iTunes sales of “The Office” translated into higher ratings. Whether the same will hold true for “Chuck” and “Gossip Girl” remains to be seen, but if early DVR data trickling in is any indication, don’t be surprised if both skeins are more popular than early Nielsen data would suggest.

NBC’s recent decision to dis iTunes didn’t impact “Chuck,” since the show is produced by Warner Bros. TV (which is still playing nice with Apple). But the Peacock’s pullout is having an impact on the iTunes most-downloaded chart: “The Office,” normally a staple of the top 10, is MIA. Ditto “Bionic Woman,” which almost certainly would have been a fave of Apple’s geek-friendly aud (though maybe not after the really awful second episode).

By the way, if you were a bit bummed by the second episode of “Chuck”– I wasn’t, but I know some people were annoyed by the decision to restate the pilot premise– make sure to check out Monday’s third episode, “Chuck vs. the Tango.”  It’s a great hour that cements Zachary Levi as a breakout star– and “Chuck’s” status as my favorite new show of the season.

–Josef Adalian

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