ABC comedy bows behind big 'Modern Family'

Thanks to another dominant performance by “American Idol” in the opening hour, Fox prevailed in key demos Wednesday, while ABC saw good opening-night tune-in for Matthew Perry sitcom “Mr. Sunshine,” which followed a highly rated episode of “Modern Family.”

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, “Modern Family” (5.0 rating/13 share in adults 18-49, 13.1 million viewers overall) dominated the 9 o’clock half-hour in all key demos, rising nearly 10% from its most recent original episode (which aired opposite “American Idol”) and likely standing as the current week’s top-rated scripted program in adults 18-49. The Emmy-winning comedy likely benefited from buzz surrounding the premiere of “Mr. Sunshine,” which opened at 9:30 p.m. to a second-place 3.7/10 in 18-49 and 10.6 million viewers overall – logging the best results in the time period for ABC since the opening weeks of “Cougar Town” in September 2009 and becoming the net’s top-rated midseason scripted premiere since “Eli Stone” about three years ago.

“Sunshine” lost about a quarter of its hefty “Modern Family” lead-in, and ABC will be looking to see how that retention holds up in coming weeks. In its final three episodes following an original “Modern Family,” previous timeslot occupant “Cougar Town” retained on average 62% of its 18-49 lead-in (2.6 vs. 4.2, according to live plus same-day Nielsen estimates).

Earlier in the evening for ABC, “The Middle” continued to hold up well opposite “American Idol” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 8.8 million viewers overall), but rookie 8:30 p.m. comedy “Better With You” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 6.8 million viewers overall) drifted downward opposite the Fox audience magnet. And at 10, “Off the Map” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 5.6 million viewers overall) was flat week to week despite the noticeable improvement for the net in the 9:30 p.m. half-hour.

For Fox, “American Idol” (8.3/23 in adults 18-49, 23.7 million viewers overall) dipped about 8% week to week but still beat its combined ABC-CBS-NBC competition by 80% in adults 18-49 (8.3 vs. 4.6) and by 27% in total viewers (23.7 million vs. 18.7 million). It was followed by the finale of drama “Human Target” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 8.3 million viewers overall), which was down slightly from last week when it had a stronger lead-in and faced softer competition in the 9 o’clock hour.

At CBS, the finale of “Live to Dance” mustered a mere 0.9/3 in 18-49 and 4.8 million viewers overall, but the net picked up nicely from there with “Criminal Minds” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 14.3 million viewers overall), which placed first or second in most categories at 9 o’clock. And closing things out was the fourth and final Wednesday episode of regular Friday series “Blue Bloods” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 12.5 million viewers overall), which placed second in its hour in 18-49 and first in both adults 25-54 (3.2/8) and total viewers, rebounding nicely from last week when it aired behind a repeat “Minds.” Next week, the “Criminal Minds” spinoff “Suspect Behavior” bows in the 10 o’clock slot on a night that will also see the return of the net’s “Survivor” in the evening’s opening hour.

NBC was down week to week as two-hour gameshow “Minute to Win It” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 6.1 million viewers overall) drooped opposite stronger competition. Also falling off some was “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall), though it still led the 10 o’clock hour in adults 18-49.

CW served up special off-night repeats of “Nikita” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) and “The Vampire Diaries” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.0 million viewers overall). Its reality lineup of “America’s Next Top Model” and the new “Shedding for the Wedding” debuts on Feb. 23.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 5.3/14; ABC, 2.8/8; CBS, 2.3/6; NBC, 2.1/6; Univision, 1.4/4; CW, 0.4/1.

In total viewers: Fox, 16.0 million; CBS, 10.5 million; ABC, 8.4 million; NBC, 6.7 million; Univision, 3.8 million; CW, 1.3 million.

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