« CW '90210' critic reviews | Main | Day 2 RNC viewership below Dems »

September 03, 2008

'90210' is CW's highest-rated scripted series premiere

90210_poster_3UPDATED: The premiere of the CW's "90210" -- arguably the most crucial series of the fall season -- became the highest-rated scripted debut in the network's two-year history.

Tuesday's two-hour premiere was seen by 4.7 million viewers and garnered a 2.6 rating among adults 18-40. That surpasses the CW's previous scripted record in the adult demo by 18%, set by a premiere of the long-running cult favorite "Smallville" (2.2). The "90210" number also ties the network's premiere record once reached by reality hit "America’s Next Top Model." The CW enjoyed a rare full-night victory, besting all broadcast competitors to win the evening in the adult demo. Among the network's women 18-34 target, "90210" was the CW's highest-rated scripted telecast ever (4.3/12).

"I was really thrilled, I was relieved, I was excited," said CW entertainment president Dawn Ostoff when asked her reaction to the numbers. "I knew this would appeal to a broader audience than our other shows. We are really happy with the Nielsen numbers, I really think this show is going to soak into the zeitgeist."

TV critics were braced for disaster after CW refused to send out screener copies of the show (the debut was actually reworked until nearly the last minute). But most critics were generally pleased with the result, calling the show a serviceable-if-tame update of the 1990s original.

The "90210" returns are considered to have outsized importance. No network has more riding on a single show than the CW has on "90210." If the CW does not improve, industry insiders have whispered this summer, corporate parents Warner Bros. and CBS Corp. might fold the network. And of all the CW's new shows, only the teen soap sequel was considered to have a real shot of significantly moving the needle. To paraphrase the network's "90210" slogan, the CW is living by the code.

"It needs to be something that is surprising," a company insider said last week of the "90210" rating. "An 'I didn't know the CW could do that kind of number' number."

By setting a new scripted record, last night's tally could fit the bill. Combined with "Gossip Girl" showing some growth on Monday, "90210" should give CW some breathing room if the show can continue to carry a fair amount of its number into next week. Now that's a big If, since last night doubtless contained a significant amount of one-time curiosity tune-in.

"I think it's probably excessive to pin the survival of a network on a single show, but unquestionably the relaunch of this well-known franchise is going to be inordinately important in bringing some heat back to the CW, and forestalling further erosion of their audience," TV historian Tim Brooks said. "Youth-oriented networks, more than anyone, need heat."

The "90210" numbers also improved over the course of the show's two hours among all key demographics, which is a hopeful sign that audiences remained engaged in the show. 

"Part of the news this morning that made me feel really good is seeing how every half hour built," Ostroff said. "In the 11th hour, I wondered about whether this was the right decision to put the two hours back to back. It’s a lot of drama. But people really liked these characters."

Also: In its second week in its new time period, NBC's "America's Got Talent" (10.6 million viewers, 2.8/8) posted a Tuesday low. Fox placed second with repeats, followed by NBC, CBS led by "Big Brother" (6.5 million 2.4/6) and ABC, which aired the finale of "Wanna Bet" (3.9 million, 1.5/4). Convention ratings will be posted later today.

UPDATE: For the three or so CW viewers that didn't catch it the first time, the network just announced it will air an encore of the two-hour "90210" premiere on Thursday, Sept. 4.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference '90210' is CW's highest-rated scripted series premiere:

Sign up for The Live Feed daily email newsletter:

If you wish to only receive the morning ratings, get the Hollywood Reporter's ratings alert.
Follow us on Twitter;
Subscribe using RSS.
New: The Live Feed mobile-friendly version.
Get headlines delivered to your Google or Yahoo homepage:
 Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Ain't It Cool News - Coaxial
Deadline Hollywood Daily
Drudge Report
Fark: Showbiz
Hollywood Reporter
Hollywood Wiretap
Huffington Post
Just Jared
Lisa de Moraes
Michael Ausiello
NY Post: Vulture
Perez Hilton
Pop Candy
Reality Blurred
Television Without Pity
The Futon Critic
The Wrap
THR BLOGS: Heat Vision Blog
THR BLOGS: Hollywood Reporter Pilot Log
THR BLOGS: Risky Business
Tim Goodman: The Bastard Machine
Time's Tuned In
TV Barn
TV by the Numbers
TV Decoder
TV Squad
TV Tattle
TV Tracker
Warming Glow

The Hollywood Reporter is Your Complete Film Resource

The columnists and bloggers who write for The Hollywood Reporter have their collective finger on the pulse of the boxoffice. From Martin Grove and the rest, THR columnists deliver their thoughts on the film industry in an uncompromised style. Subscribe to THR today and get the latest views from these film experts and get the latest movie reviews as well.