×

‘Rock’ hits series high

NBC comedy scores in its season premiere

The buzz surrounding Tina Fey paid off for NBC on Thursday as “30 Rock” opened to series-best ratings behind hot laffer “The Office.”

And two nights later, her appearance as Gov. Sarah Palin alongside Sen. John McCain on the Peacock’s “Saturday Night Live” drove the show to its second-best overnight score in 11 years.

In primetime Thursday, NBC gained ground on its rivals, too, but CBS prevailed in all broad measures and ABC ran second. It was a disappointing night all around for the broadcasters, though, as every net but CW was down by double-digit percentages vs. the same night a year ago.

Halloween Eve festivities may have affected the ratings for most shows, as early-evening viewing levels were especially low.

CBS prevailed on Halloween, and football lifted ABC on Saturday. The Alphabet and Eye are the month’s early leaders among 18-49 and are expected to wage a tight battle down to the finish.

Looking at Nielsen estimates for Thursday, “30 Rock” kicked off its third season with solid numbers (4.1 rating/10 share in adults 18-49, 8.66 million viewers overall), though it ran third in its timeslot and came in a bit below the three-week October average for “Saturday Night Live” election specials (4.4/10).

“Rock” retained a solid 85% of its lead-in from “The Office” — up from its 69% average for the brief time it aired in the 9:30 slot a year ago.

NBC is hoping to keep interest in the critically acclaimed show high by pumping up the guest stars in coming weeks. Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey are among the celebs who’ll appear on “30 Rock” in the sweep.

For its part, “The Office” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 9.51m) was up 7% vs. a year ago in 18-49, led its timeslot in 18-34 (5.5/15) and drew its largest overall audience of the season. It and “30 Rock” combined to lift up NBC 9% in 18-49 vs. last year’s “Office”/”Scrubs” combo.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” comfortably won the hour in 18-49 (5.7/14, 15.32m) though it was down sharply year to year. Off, but by not as much, was CBS’ “CSI” (4.8/12, 19.10m), which still led the hour in 25-54 (6.6/15) and total viewers.

The 9 o’clock hour has definitely tightened this season, with “The Office” beating a firstrun “CSI” head to head for the first time (4.8/12 vs. 4.7/12). And last month, “CSI” beat a firstrun “Grey’s Anatomy” in the demo for the first time.

CBS’ “Survivor” (4.1/12, 13.02m) dominated the night’s opening hour over ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (2.6/7, 8.55m) and NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” (2.4/7, 6.27m) and “Kath & Kim” (2.4/6, 5.44m).

Fox did little on the night with “Kitchen Nightmares,” including an original at 9 o’clock (1.7/4, 3.91m). CW drew similar numbers but was up year to year, with “Smallville” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.32m) and “Supernatural” (1.5/4, 3.55m), which had some of their best scores of the season.

At 10, NBC vet “ER” (3.4/9 in 18-49, 9.19m) prevailed in demos over CBS’ “Eleventh Hour” (2.8/8, 11.25m) and ABC’s “Life on Mars” (2.6/7, 8.14m). “Mars” was up week to week, while “Hour” was down.

CBS won each hour in Friday prelims, starting with “Ghost Whisperer” (2.2/8 in 18-49, 9.4 million) and ending with “Numbers” (prelim 2.3/8 in 18-49, 10.6 million). In between, a special repeat “NCIS” (2.3/8 in 18-49, 11.2 million) dominated at 9 o’clock, rising more than 50% above the score in the timeslot the previous week for the since-pulled “The Ex List.”

NBC drew tiny numbers for its dramas “Crusoe” (prelim 0.8/3, 4.2 million) and “Lipstick Jungle” on its new night (0.9/3, 3.2 million).

ABC rolled Saturday with the down-to-the-wire college football contest between No. 1 Texas and No. 7 Texas Tech. Game likely averaged about a 4 rating in 18-49 — more than double anything else in primetime on the night.

In latenight, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” with an appearance by McCain and hosted by Ben Affleck, averaged a 9.0 household rating/20 share in metered-market overnights. It was a bit below this season’s high, set two weeks earlier (10.7/24), but these are the two top ratings for the show since December 1997.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

  • Peter Fonda Dead: 'Easy Rider' Star

    Peter Fonda, Star of 'Easy Rider,' Dies at 79

    Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His sister Jane Fonda [...]

  • CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to

    CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to Sarajevo

    When the organizers of the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Industry Days surveyed the local TV landscape several years ago, they recognized the chance to make an impact. “We decided five years ago that we need to do something,” says CineLink industry coordinator Armin Hadzic. “The [regional] TV and public broadcasters were coming from another age.” [...]

  • SCHOOLED - ABC's "Schooled" stars Bryan

    'Kids Are Alright' Creator Joins 'Schooled' Season 2 as Showrunner

    Tim Doyle is taking over as showrunner and executive producer on the upcoming second season of “Schooled” at ABC, Variety has confirmed. Doyle takes over from Season 1 showrunner and series co-creator Marc Firek, who has exited the series to focus on development. The news comes just months after Doyle’s 1970s-set comedy series, “The Kids [...]

  • Matthew Miller'Lethal Weapon' TV series screening,

    'Lethal Weapon' Team Lands Put Pilot Order at Fox for Cop Drama 'Dead Eddie' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Matt Miller and Alex Taub are staying in business with Fox. The pair, who previously worked together on Fox’s series adaptation of “Lethal Weapon,” have scored a put pilot commitment at the broadcaster for a new drama project, Variety has learned exclusively. The drama is titled “Dead Eddie.” In the series, after a near-death experience, misanthropic [...]

  • Krypton Syfy

    'Krypton' Canceled After Two Seasons at Syfy, Network Not Moving Forward on 'Lobo' Spinoff

    “Krypton” has been canceled after two seasons at Syfy. In addition, the NBCUniversal cabler is not moving ahead with a planned “Lobo” spinoff. “Krypton,” set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, follows Superman’s grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as a young man faced with saving his home planet or letting it be [...]

  • Alexis Martin Woodall

    Alexis Martin Woodall Named President of Ryan Murphy Productions

    Longtime producer Alexis Martin Woodall has been tapped to become the president of Ryan Murphy Productions, giving her oversight of the Netflix-based company. As president, Woodall will manage Murphy’s company, continuing to be hands on in executive producing its TV productions and producing its films. “Alexis is brazen, sharp and incisive — qualities that have [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content