Tim Allen knows how to exit with style.
His “Home Improvement” sitcom wrapped an eight-year run on ABC Tuesday with the second-best results for any series finale in six years.
That made it a big night for ABC, the net’s highest-rated Tuesday in adults 18-49 in seven years. With the surge, ABC says it will now meet one of its key goals of the May sweeps — catching Fox for second in the 18-49 demographic.
ABC estimates 55 million watched at least some of Tuesday’s 90-minute “Home” farewell, which included a half-hour of clips, the final seg itself, plus a backstage/outtakes special that ended up with the best 18-49 results of the telecast.
The special “Home” averaged a 21.6 rating, 34 share in homes and a 16.0/43 in adults 18-49. Other than last year’s 41.3/58 for “Seinfeld,” no other series finale has wrapped with stronger numbers since “Cheers” (45.5/64) in 1993.
For the night, ABC compiled a bigger 18-49 average than the combined CBS-NBC-Fox competition with a 12.8 rating vs. a combined 11.7.
ABC Entertainment prez Jamie Tarses acknowledges the network has its work cut out in trying to maintain its Tuesday ratings strength without “Home.” She admitted “it would be a huge accomplishment” to avoid Tuesday falloffs, but added, “Obviously that is our goal.”
She noted “Home” gave its schedule mates an important going-away gift by super-charging their season-finale numbers: At 9:30, “Spin City” (14.3/22 in homes, 11.0/27 in adults 18-49) tallied its highest 18-49 vote count since Oct. 8, 1996, and 10 p.m.’s “NYPD Blue” (13.5/22 in homes, 8.9/24 in adults 18-49) nabbed its biggest 18-49 total since Nov. 24’s departure of Jimmy Smits.
In households, only one other “Home Improvement” episode since 1994 was higher-rated than Tuesday’s finale: That was the seg in which Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ character had a cancer scare.
“Home” fell short of blockbuster numbers, bowing out with about half the rating of an average Super Bowl and “ER’s” season-finale last Thursday of 22.1/35. The all-time champ among series-enders is the Feb. 28, 1983, “MASH” finale, which flew into the sunset with a 60.2/77 in homes. But in the 1990s, only “Cheers,” “Seinfeld,” “Cosby” (28.0/45) and “Dallas” (22.0/38) topped Tuesday’s “Home” tally.
Boosted by “Home’s” strong finish, ABC has inched past Fox and into second in the May sweeps 18-49 race (with a 4.6 rating vs. Fox’s 4.5). With one night left, ABC is confident it will beat or at least tie Fox in that battle and end up the only net to improve on last year’s 18-49 results. NBC remains a comfortable 1.4 rating points ahead of that battling pair.
In homes, NBC holds a safe 0.6-rating-point edge over runner-up CBS.
The competition struggled vs. “Home” Tuesday. For example, the hotly promoted season-closer for “Just Shoot Me” managed a mere 7.6/12 with its first half-hour vs. “Home,” then built to 9.3/14 its second half-hour after “Home” faded to black.
About “Home’s” long-term Nielsen appeal, ABC’s Tarses commented, “People felt like they knew this family … their own families weren’t so far from it. This is the family they thought they were or wanted to be.”
Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.239 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.