There’s no evidence of triskaidekaphobia over at “ER” or “Survivor.”
While the Thursday spotlight has been on the heavyweight 9 o’clock tussle between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI,” the slot leaders in the evening’s other hours are a pair of veteran skeins holding up well in their 13th seasons.
“ER” has been the most impressive, with its 6.3 rating in adults 18-49 down a tick from the 6.4 it had through five episodes last season. After declining by double-digit percentages for each of the past few years, the medical drama has certainly stopped the bleeding and has regained its status of being the No. 1 program in its time period.
While some have credited the addition of John Stamos to the cast and fewer depressing storylines, a couple of sked factors are likely more responsible.
First, CBS has removed former slot champ “Without a Trace” (6.5 rating at this point last year) and replaced it with the new “Shark,” which has netted a 4.2. This alone probably saved “ER” from declining by another half point.
Also, ABC’s skedding of “Grey’s Anatomy” opposite the Eye’s “CSI” means there are more than 45 million drama viewers watching these two nets at 9:59 — and that can only help the top drama at 10.
And then there’s the fact that “Grey’s” isn’t any old drama — it’s a hospital-based soap opera going after the same viewers (and their younger sisters) as those who watched “ER” in its heyday.
But give “ER” credit: It has been NBC’s No. 1 drama for 12 seasons (the new “Heroes” has a shot to top it this season) and has been a constant bright spot even as the net’s overall prospects have grown darker.
It also has had to contend with a second drama rival this fall as ABC has replaced newsmag “Primetime” with the new sudser “Six Degrees.” The folks over at ABC may have underestimated “ER’s” potency in season 13, though, as it has consistently crushed “Six Degrees,” which inherits a huge lead-in audience.
For its part, “Survivor” has remained incredibly resilient over its 6½-year existence, which has produced 13 seasons of shows. While other unscripted contest phenoms have seen their ratings decline sharply from their peaks — “The Bachelor” and “The Apprentice” among them — “Survivor” has been a top-10 performer in each of its incarnations.
The pre-show hubbub over the splitting of tribes along racial lines didn’t really juice ratings, but it didn’t hurt, either. And like “ER,” any show that can maintain viewer interest this late in its run has accomplished something.
Through six airings, “Survivor: Cook Islands” was averaging a 5.9 rating in adults 18-49, down just 3% from last year’s 6.1 rating at this point for the Guatemala edition.
“Survivor” also has tougher competition this fall from ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (4.6 rating, a 92% improvement for the net over last year’s 2.4 for “Alias”) and from NBC’s comedy block of “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” (4.1 rating, up 17% from last year’s “Joey” and “Will & Grace”).
Both “Survivor” and “ER” are a few years removed from their greatest water-cooler moments, but if this year’s Nielsens are any indication, don’t expect either of them to be drying up any time soon.