Mads Mikkelsen Hannibal

It places third, improves slot; CBS tops night behind 'Big Bang' and 'Two and a Half Men'

With little lead-in support, NBC drama “Hannibal” opened to decent-ish but unexceptional ratings Thursday — running third among the dramas in the hour but certainly an improvement over the most recent shows to premiere in what has become a troubled timeslot for the Peacock.

CBS, back with its lineup after two weeks off for college basketball, won the night with ease behind “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” Thursday’s top two shows among young adults.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the premiere of Bryan Fuller-created drama “Hannibal” averaged a 1.6 rating/4 share in adults 18-49 and 4.3 million viewers overall. While not great numbers, the premiere does score points for building on its soft lead-in courtesy of first-year comedy “Go On” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), which is finishing its season with a pair of Thursday airings.

“Hannibal,” based on characters from the book “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris and starring Mads Mikkelsen as the cannibalistic title character and Hugh Dancy as an FBI criminal profiler, did improve upon the weak opening-night score of “Do No Harm,” whose series premiere in February logged a mere 0.9 demo rating. And NBC hasn’t done a higher 18-49 rating with a regular 10 p.m. Thursday series since the premiere of “Awake” about 13 months ago.

In a good sign, the audience that started with “Hannibal” saw it through to its conclusion, with ratings for the 10:30 p.m. half-hour in various demos either matching or within a tick of its score for the 10 o’clock half-hour.

NBC once owned Thursday at 10, as it required only three drama series in the hour — “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “ER” — in a 28-year span from 1981 to 2009. Fast forward to last season, though, and the net burned through three new dramas — “Prime Suspect,” “The Firm” and “Awake” — in about 28 weeks.

The net tried newsmag “Rock Center” in the fall, but it opened to a 0.8 demo rating last September, so it shifted to high-concept dramas like “Do No Harm” and “Hannibal.” But now opposite successful dramas on ABC (“Scandal”) and CBS (“Elementary”) and with little lead-in support, any 10 p.m. Thursday drama faces a tough challenge for the Peacock. The 1.6 demo rating on Thursday was a nice improvement over the 1.0 the net averaged this season with “Rock Center,” “Do No Harm” and repeats of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Both “Scandal” and “Elementary” are scheduled for repeats next week, which could allow “Hannibal” to pick up some first-time viewers.

Elsewhere Thursday, CBS rolled early as “The Big Bang Theory” (4.9 rating/17 share in adults 18-49, 16.8 million viewers overall) returned from its break with more monster numbers, up slightly from its March 14 telecast and topping the combined 18-49 scores in the half-hour of Fox, ABC and NBC. It also will edge out Monday’s episode of “The Voice” on NBC as the week’s No. 1 program in the 18-49 demo.

“Two and a Half Men” kept CBS on top across the board at 8:30 p.m. (3.8/12 in 18-49, 13.6 million viewers overall), rising 10% (0.4) from its most recent airing and beating Fox’s “American Idol” by a comfortable margin in 18-49 (3.8 to 3.1).

CBS stayed on top at 9 p.m. with drama “Person of Interest” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 14.3 million viewers overall), tying in 18-49 with ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and winning outright in adults 25-54 (4.1/10) and total viewers.

Both “Person of Interest” and “Elementary” were down a bit from their most recent airings of three weeks ago.

At Fox, “American Idol” has stopped the bleeding, as its preliminary score (second-place 2.8/9 in 18-49, 11.3 million viewers overall) was in line with its series low of last week; it figures to edge up by at least a tick in the nationals. The net then experimented with special original episodes of its Tuesday comedies “New Girl” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall) and “The Mindy Project” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall), both of which beat out their NBC comedy competition.

The pair came in above the 1.3 rating for an original hour of “Raising Hope” a week ago, but a little below the 2.0 that “Glee” logged with its most recent airing a couple of weeks ago.

ABC’s “Wife Swap” settled for a 1.2/4 in 18-49 and 4.1 million viewers overall opening the night, down 14% (0.2) from its score of last week; “Wipeout” debuts in the hour for the Alphabet in three weeks. Self-starter “Grey’s Anatomy” followed with a solid 2.7/8 in 18-49 and 8.4 million viewers overall, on par or a smidge below of its week-ago scores depending on how the nationals come out. And at 10, sophomore drama “Scandal” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall) was either flat or up slightly depending on its updated national numbers, again winning the hour in 18-49 and 25-54 (3.2/8).

The Shonda Rhimes shows remain a good pairing, with nearly identical averages in many categories.

Earlier in the night on NBC, “Community” continued to struggle (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), but “Parks and Recreation” again showed something by building nicely on that lead-in (1.5/5 in 18-49, 2.9 million viewers overall). It was followed by “The Office” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 3.4 million viewers overall), which hit a  low six weeks from its series finale. The 9:30 p.m. premiere of “Go On” that followed (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall) retained 65% of “The Office” — better than recent attempt “1600 Penn” but nothing special.

Both “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” were airing just their second original episodes in six weeks, so they could pick up momentum with a string of first-run half-hours to close the season.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 3.1/9; Fox, 2.3/7; ABC, 2.2/7; Univision, 1.5/4; NBC, 1.4/4; CW, 0.3/1.
In total viewers: CBS, 13.3 million; Fox, 7.7 million; ABC, 6.9 million; Univision, 3.6 million; NBC, 3.3 million; CW, 1.0 million.

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