It beats 'Go On,' 'Happy Endings' in demo; CBS vet tops them all

The first three-way network comedy showdown in years left some casualties behind on Tuesday night.

Fox’s “New Girl” emerged the winner in the rare laffer pile-up at 9 p.m., but it’s likely that neither the Zooey Deschanel starrer nor its two new comedy competitors — NBC’s frosh “Go On” and ABC’s returning “Happy Endings” — is achieving full ratings potential by airing against one another.

Tuesday saw the season premiere for ABC’s “Happy Endings”and “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23,” two shows that did middling numbers on Wednesday last season in the cushy post-“Modern Family” slot. Neither “Happy Endings” or “Apt. 23″ came close to where they opened last season. At 9 p.m., “Happy Endings” finished behind “New Girl” and NBC’s rookie “Go On.” All three comedies, meanwhile, lagged CBS’ crime vet “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

Elsewhere, CBS rookie drama “Vegas” lost steam in its fourth airing and CW’s “Emily Owens, M.D.” appears in trouble after a poor second-week perf. Cable saw strong showings by FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”

Looking at the Nielsen nationals, “New Girl” averaged a 2.7 rating/7 share and 5.16 million viewers overall in the 9 o’clock half-hour — in line with its prior airings this fall and a bit ahead of “Go On” (2.4/6, 6.12m). NBC’s Matthew Perry starrer dipped 8% from its most recent airing two weeks ago.

ABC’s “Happy Endings” ran third in the comedy war (1.8/5, 5.57m), well down from the 3.1 it opened to behind “Modern Family” last fall.

Head-to-head, CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 16.53m for its hour) beat “New Girl” (2.9 to 2.7).

The battle of half-hours was reduced to two participants at 9:30 p.m., as Fox rested “The Mindy Project” for a special hour of “The X Factor” (2.3/6, 5.71m), which not surprisingly was well below its average. NBC’s rookie “The New Normal” (1.7/4, 4.33m) tied ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23″ (1.7/4, 4.20m).

The last time three of the Big Four networks aired comedies in the same slot was seven years ago, when the big battle was at 8 p.m. between ABC’s “George Lopez,” Fox’s “That ’70s Show” and CBS’ “Still Standing.”

No net has taken hold of Tuesday night comedy-wise, which means NBC, ABC and Fox all see opportunities there. Fox is trying to establish a four-comedy template, anchored by “New Girl,” but so far hasn’t done much in the night’s other half-hours.

When ABC and NBC laid out their fall lineup skeds in May, neither expected the other to go with comedy at 9. Each had aired reality shows in the hour last season, and likely thought their rival would do the same this season.

Instead, NBC opted to use “The Voice” at 8 as a lead-in to comedy. And since “The Voice” is the hotter show in key demos, NBC’s “Go On” has benefited.

These early results aren’t good for ABC, as “Happy Endings” seems to be the third wheel in the slot, but they also aren’t a surprise given the logjam. It seems unlikely that ABC would shift its adult comedies to the 8 o’clock hour, but you can’t rule it out.

In Tuesday’s leadoff hour, “The Voice” prevailed in key demos (4.3/12 in 18-49, 11.22m), with CBS’ “NCIS” (3.2/9, 17.78m) running second; both shows were down a few pegs from their most recent segs. ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” ran third (2.3/7, 12.90m), up from last week. Fox’s “Raising Hope” (1.7/5, 4.10m) and “Ben & Kate” (1.4/4, 2.99m) came in fourth; “Ben” was up week to week.

Tuesday’s 9-11 p.m. shows preempted last week by the presidential debate lost momentum. The slowdown was most noticeable for 10 p.m. newcomer “Vegas” on CBS (1.6/4, 10.80m), which had a slightly softer lead-in this week and dropped 20% from its most recent episode. It ran second among the broadcast dramas in the hour among 18-49 and edged out NBC’s “Parenthood” in 25-54.

The Peacock drama was the broadcast leader in 18-49 (1.9/5, 4.85m), beating out ABC’s “Private Practice” (1.4/4, 4.58m). All three broadcast dramas again were overshadowed by FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.30m), which won the hour overall in 18-49 and 25-54.

Another cable standout on the night was ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 2.85m), whose Halloween seg tied Fox’s 8 o’clock hour comedies in 18-34 (1.7/6) and tied “The Voice” in both the hour and on the night as TV’s top show in females 12-34 (3.9/12).

At CW, “Emily Owens, M.D.” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 1.12m) fell from its soft bow of last week; its lead-in, “Hart of Dixie” (0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.32m), held up better. In adults 18-34, “Hart” earned a 0.6 rating, and “Emily” a 0.4.

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