The premiere of CBS's new cop drama "Battle Creek" was an unqualified disaster, at least according to preliminary numbers, as the one-hour pilot delivered the lowest ratings for an in-season series in the network's history.
According to Nielsen fast national data, Sunday night's broadcast drew 7.81 million viewers and a 1.0 in the adults 18-to-49 demo. As a single ratings point represents 1% of the population of people in the demo, that preliminary number translates into a mere 1.27 million viewers from 18 to 49.
CBS actually says its primary target demographic is adults 25 to 54, but the numbers there are just as discouraging. "Battle Creek" averaged a 1.6 in the older demo, the worst result for a scripted show on Sunday's prime-time lineup.
The 1.0 delivered by "Battle Creek's" opening salvo broke the previous record set by the short-lived lawyer show "Made in Jersey" back in September 2012. That Friday night drama averaged a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo and was canceled after just two episodes. (Like "Battle Creek," "Made in Jersey" also premiered to a 1.6 rating among the 25-to-54 crowd.)
For what it's worth, the lowest-rated broadcast drama debut was notched in January 2012 by NBC's Jekyll and Hyde reboot, "Do No Harm." The show bowed to a 0.9 rating, which was matched the following season by the blink-and-you-missed-it ABC crime drama "Killer Women." Among all Big Four scripted debuts, Fox's Friday night comedy "Enlisted" hit the low-water mark with a 0.7 in January 2014.
The Sunday 10 p.m. time slot appeared to be a good fit for "Battle Creek," which was developed from a script CBS picked up from Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad") 12 years ago. Going head-to-head with ABC's faltering "Revenge" and NBC's encore programming, "Battle Creek" seemingly should have won the hour in a romp. But as the screenwriter William Goldman famously observed, "Nobody knows anything."
Although CBS seems unlikely to be patient with "Battle Creek" (it ordered 13 episodes), it also has nothing to slot in its place. Should the network pull the series after another weak outing, look for it to fill the hour with repeats.
As CBS looks to put Sunday night's results behind it, Fox is singing a more jaunty tune. The fourth-place network saw promising results with the debut of the Will Forte post-apocalyptic comedy, "The Last Man on Earth," which drew 5.69 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. slot.
Brewed in-house by 20th Century Fox Television, the raucous show put up the highest ratings for a Fox Sunday comedy since the NFL playoffs wrapped in January. "Last Man" also improved on its "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" lead-in by 28% and was sampled by a fairly wide range of viewers, winning the night among the 18-34 gang as well as adults 25-to-54.
"Last Man" no doubt was boosted by Fox's aggressive promotional blitz, which included teasers that aired during the network's winter NFL broadcasts and a subsequent guerilla marketing campaign involving flyers, vending machines and a dedicated Instagram page.
If "Battle Creek" and "Last Man" represented the extreme ends of Sunday night's ratings spectrum, ABC's latest launch fell somewhere in the middle. The two-hour premiere of the Ryan Phillippe limited series "Secrets & Lies" drew 5.95 million viewers and a 1.5 in the 18-to-49 demo, squandering 32% of its "Once Upon a Time" lead-in.
If nothing else, "Secrets & Lies" was consistent throughout the night, holding onto that 1.5 rating in each of its four half-hours. The premiere also finished second on the night among women 18-to-49, 18-to-34 and 25-to-54, trailing only "Once Upon a Time."
"Secrets & Lies" moves to its regular Sunday 9 p.m. time slot next week. At present, the show is faring slightly better than its predecessor; the supernatural drama "Resurrection" closed out its second season with an average draw of a 1.3 in the 19-to-49 demo.