For the Fox drama “House,” the third time is indeed a charm.
Or at least the third-season debut is a charm. “House” made a strong return to Fox’s schedule last Tuesday, proving that it remains one of the network’s most reliable performers for fall, the season in which Fox has struggled to gain ratings traction in past years.
On Sept. 5, the “House” premiere scored a 7.2 rating in adults 18 to 49, a number that includes live viewing plus same-day viewing via digital video recorders, according to Nielsen Media Research. Besides easily taking home the title for highest-rated program for the night in the demo, “House” scored a 22 percent increase over its season-debut ratings last September. The show’s 2006-07 season opener also outperformed all of its ratings in the demo from last fall.
When it originally premiered in fall 2004, “House” was a critic’s darling that had trouble finding an audience. That was the case until “American Idol” returned in January 2005 and became “Houses’s” lead-in; the No.1 show on television introduced a new audience to the medical mystery. The ratings soon climbed, but there were still questions about whether the show would perform in the fall without a boost from “Idol,” which returns to the Fox schedule each January.
Those questions were allayed last fall, when “House” held forth in the ratings without benefit of “Idol” and gave Fox a much-needed ratings boost. Because of post-season baseball telecasts in October and the resulting schedule disruptions to its regularly scheduled series, the network had traditionally been a fourth-place performer in adults 18 to 49 for the fall, but “House” is proving to be an early-September ratings beachhead.
Usually scheduled for 9 p.m. (ET), “House” ran at 8 p.m. last week to act as a lead-in for Fox’s new hostage negotiator drama “Standoff,” which scored a 4.7 in adults 18 to 49, the second-highest rated program for the night in the demo. While “Standoff” lost 35 percent of its “House” lead-in and dropped 12 percent from its own half-hour to half-hour, the new series was up 47 percent from the previous week’s timeslot holder, the new reality series “Celebrity Duets” (3.2).
A day after the “House” premiere, sophomore drama “Bones” aired its second episode of the season, garnering a 2.8 in the demo, on par with its debut the previous week. “Bones” wasn’t strong enough win the time period, with an original episode of CBS’s “Rock Star: Supernova” taking the top spot at 8 p.m. and winning the night in the demo. The second episode of debuting legal defense drama “Justice” retained 100 percent of its series premiere number in adults 18 to 49 (2.9), and won the 9 p.m. time period.
Fox also saw some early performance from its debuting comedies last week as well. On Thursday, Fox premiered the marriage comedy “`Til Death,” which scored a 3.0 preliminary national rating in adults 18 to 49 at 8 p.m. That was a 25 percent increase over “That 70’s Show” January 2006 debut in the time period. At 8:30 p.m., new comedy “Happy Hour” scored a 2.5 preliminary rating in adults 18 to 49, down 17 percent from its lead-in but up 25 percent from the March 2006 debut of the sitcom “The Loop” in the time period.
While Fox’s returning Monday night drama “Prison Break” continues to bring in decent ratings at 8 p.m., the debut political thriller “Vanished” at 9 p.m. has suffered early declines. Last Monday “Vanished” scored a 2.7 in adults 18 to 49, its lowest number in its three weeks on the air and a rating that put it behind a reality repeat on ABC and CBS’s time period comedy block, also a repeat.