Ratings: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ 200th Episode Dominates Thursday

On a night when a feisty Republican debate on CNN stole away some viewers from the top entertainment series, CBS comedy powerhouse “The Big Bang Theory” towered above everything else, including Fox’s “American Idol,” which edged up with a special appearance by Kelly Clarkson. ABC’s drama lineup, which took a tumble in its second week back last week, mostly stabilized last night.

The tenth GOP presidential primary debate of the 2016 election cycle averaged a 9.9 combined household rating on CNN and Telemundo from 8:30 to 11 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen overnights. When total-viewer estimates are released later today, it’s expected to come in with between 14 million and 15 million, making it the most-watched debate of either party since a Dec. 15 Republican gathering on CNN drew 18.2 million viewers.

Looking at Thursday’s broadcast ratings action, “The Big Bang Theory” (3.7/13 in 18-49, 15.7 million viewers overall) was in line with last week and is expected to finish with its sixth straight 3.8 demo rating in the finals. The comedy, which didn’t have to face the debate head to head, beat the top-ranked program on the competition by a huge 80% margin in 18-49 (3.8 to 2.1 for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “American Idol”).

“Life in Pieces” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 9.4 million viewers overall) and “Mom” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 8.0 million viewers overall) held up well, likely matching last week’s scores, while “2 Broke Girls” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall) was up 0.2 as viewers seemed to find it in its second week on a new night. “Mom,” which matched its season high in 18-49, has grown in L+3 with each of its last three episodes, rising to a 2.3 in the demo and back above the 10-million viewers mark with its Feb. 18 episode. Closing the night, “Elementary” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall) was up a tick as it continues to battle to a virtual draw with NBC newcomer “Shades of Blue.”

At ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 7.2 million viewers overall) and “Scandal” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.9 million viewers overall) were both down a tenth to their season lows, with the latter matching last week’s prelim score but expected to emerge as the timeslot’s 18-49 winner in L+3. And at 10, “How to Get Away With Murder” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall) held steady or edged up in most categories from last week’s low, remaining the hour’s top series across the demo board.

While the Alphabet finished third in 18-49 last night, it appears poised to win the L+3 ratings crown for a third straight week when those numbers are released on Tuesday. Last week, “Grey’s” (3.34), “Scandal” (2.85) and “How to Get Away With Murder” (2.68) combined for a nightly average of 2.96 — beating CBS (2.65) and Fox (2.43) after lagging them in same-day numbers.

Fox’s “American Idol” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall) was up a tenth in the demo and gained more than 500,000 total viewers week to week as the show shifted to its regular Thursday-only format the rest of the way. Clarkson, the season 1 winner of “Idol” in 2002, performed “Piece by Piece” and was overcome with emotion as she finished. “Super pregnant and hormonal,” she said. “I’m pregnant, and it’s nostalgic, and I can’t believe it’s the last season. I’m really sorry I just bawled.”

At NBC, “You, Me and the Apocalypse” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall) held at its low level, and “The Blacklist” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.9 million viewers overall) matched its season low of last week. The James Spader drama has been in the same 1.3-1.6 range with each of its last 15 telecasts, and seems to be dragged down by its lower-lead-in; in “live plus-3” for last week, it spiked 90% in 18-49 (1.30 to 2.47) to deliver its most competitive finish to date opposite ABC’s “Scandal” (2.85 in L+3).

Closing the night for the Peacock, “Shades of Blue” (1.0/4 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall) was down a tenth from last week but remained competitive in its timeslot across the board. Last week’s “Shades” grew by 85% in 18-49 (1.06 to 1.96) and by 3.3 million total viewers (5.3 million to 8.6 million), tying with “How to Get Away With Murder” for the week’s No. 2 demo percentage lift among all Big Four series (behind only “Blacklist”).

And at CW, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall) and “The 100” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall) both added a tenth week to week, with the former again beating NBC’s “You, Me and the Apocalypse” in both 18-49 (0.9 to 0.6) and 18-34 (0.8 to 0.4). Through its first five episodes, “Legends” was averaging a 1.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 3.94 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates, up 60% and 51% respectively from its same-night numbers.

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