The twin-bill premiere of ABC's family comedy "Fresh Off the Boat" earned solid sampling Wednesday night, securing its place as the season's No. 2 broadcast comedy debut.
According to Nielsen fast national data, the 8:30 p.m. showing of "Fresh Off the Boat" delivered 7.93 million viewers and a 2.5 rating in the all-important adults 18-49 demo. That premiere performance was topped only by ABC's own "Black-ish," which bowed to a preliminary 3.3 rating on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
The first installment of "Fresh Off the Boat" improved on its "The Middle" lead-in by 14% and trailed only Fox's "American Idol" (3.1) in the half-hour.
ABC at 9:30 p.m. followed up with a bonus episode of the new comedy, the first to feature a predominately Asian cast since Margaret Cho's "All American Girl" arrived in 1994. The second episode averaged 7.56 million viewers and a 2.4 in the dollar demo.
While early sampling was strong, "Fresh Off the Boat" faces an even tougher competitive set next week, when it moves into its regular Tuesday 8 p.m. time slot. Not only will the show not enjoy the benefit of a lead-in, but it will also be tasked with squaring off against a big-reach procedural (CBS's "NCIS"), a high-voltage competition series (NBC's "The Voice") and a pulpy comic book thriller (the CW's "The Flash").
"Fresh Off the Boat" may have an advantage in that it soon will be the only comedy airing during the half-hour. Only three 8 p.m. episodes of "Parks and Recreation" remain in the hopper; the cult comedy is keeping the hour warm until "The Voice" returns on Feb. 23 for its seventh cycle.
The final season of "Parks and Recreation" is averaging a 1.4 in the demo. "The Voice" on Tuesday nights during its sixth cycle averaged a 3.1 among the 18-49 set.
Should "Fresh Off the Boat" hold its own as the year progresses, a development season that already has been notably diverse will become the stuff of legend. Season-to-date, the three highest-rated new broadcast series (Fox's "Empire," ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder" and "Black-ish") all feature African-American leads. A strong showing by "Fresh Off the Boat" should only expand TV's palette further.
Speaking of "Empire," the pulpy hip-hop drama shows no sign of flagging. The first scripted broadcast show in decades to demonstrate continuous growth from week to week, "Empire" last night earned a series-high 4.6 rating in the demo -- the biggest delivery for a regularly-scheduled network drama this season.
"Empire" once again swept every significant demographic, putting up staggering numbers among women 18-49 (5.8) women 25-54 (6.5) and men 25-54 (3.6). Per Nielsen, more than 60% of "Empire" viewers are African-American.