What Premiere Ratings For Each Returning Broadcast TV Show Should “Surprise” You?

When the 2017-18 broadcast TV season kicks off on September 25, the TV media will inevitably compare premiere ratings to last season’s ratings for returning shows. The most innumerate chuckleheads among them will be “surprised” when 2017 premiere ratings are below 2016 premiere ratings.

You shouldn’t be.

Given the 35+ year decline in broadcast TV ratings, it should be expected that each season’s premiere ratings are below the previous season’s premieres.

What should surprise you?

In recent memory, it’s been typical for shows to premiere close to their final episodes ratings from the previous season.

To assist you in figuring out what premiere ratings are truly surprising, the table below contains the average adults 18-49 Live+Same Day ratings for the last 4 new episodes of each returning show. Most of those 4 episodes were in the last 5 weeks of the season, but a noticeable fraction of the shows ended earlier in the year.

9/15 Edit: Added each network’s overall ratings average for the four last new episodes of all returning shows.

If a show’s premiere ratings are within 0.1 ratings point of the numbers in the table it’s not “surprising”, it was to be expected.

If a show’s premiere ratings are more than 0.1 below or (particularly) above the ratings in the table, it could reasonably be called “surprising”, the further away, the more surprising.

2016-17 final 4 new episode ratings average
ABC 1.2
Program
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

0.7

American Housewife

1.2

black-ish

1.3

Designated Survivor

1.0

Fresh Off The Boat

1.0

Grey’s Anatomy

1.9

How To Get Away With Murder

1.4

Modern Family

1.7

Once Upon A Time

0.9

Quantico

0.6

Scandal

1.3

Speechless

1.2

The Goldbergs

1.4

The Middle

1.2

 –
CBS 1.1
Program
Blue Bloods

1.0

Bull

1.2

Code Black

1.0

Criminal Minds

1.4

Elementary

0.6

Hawaii Five-0

1.0

Kevin Can Wait

1.2

Life in Pieces

1.1

MacGyver

0.9

Madam Secretary

0.7

Man With A Plan

1.0

Mom

1.4

NCIS

1.4

NCIS: Los Angeles

1.0

NCIS: New Orleans

1.1

Scorpion

1.1

Superior Donuts

1.0

The Big Bang Theory

2.6

 –
CW 0.4
Program
Arrow

0.6

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

0.2

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow

0.6

iZombie

0.3

Jane The Virgin

0.3

Riverdale

0.3

Supergirl

0.6

Supernatural

0.5

The 100

0.3

The Flash

1.0

The Originals

0.3

 –
Fox 1.0
Program
Bob’s Burgers

0.8

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

0.7

Empire

2.2

Family Guy

1.1

Gotham

1.0

Lethal Weapon

1.3

Lucifer

0.9

New Girl

0.9

Star

1.2

The Exorcist

0.6

The Last Man On Earth

0.8

The Mick

0.8

The Simpsons

1.0

 –
NBC 1.1
Program
Blindspot

0.9

Chicago Fire

1.3

Chicago Med

1.1

Chicago P.D.

1.3

Great News

0.8

Law & Order: SVU

1.2

Shades Of Blue

0.8

Superstore

0.8

Taken

0.8

The Blacklist

0.8

The Good Place

1.1

This Is Us

2.8

Timeless

0.8

Trial And Error

0.9