No Laughing Matter: Fox, ABC Comedy Premieres Turf Out

NFL Could Help Boost Next Week's 'Bordertown,' 'Cooper Barrett'

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The 'Bordertown' premiere faced stiff competition, but will catch a favorable wind next episode.
The 'Bordertown' premiere faced stiff competition, but will catch a favorable wind next episode. Credit: Fox

Seth MacFarlane's long-delayed animated series "Bordertown" failed to make a splash Sunday night, as Fox's new-look Animation Domination lineup premiered opposite the final regular-season game of the 2015-16 NFL season.

According to Nielsen fast national data, "Bordertown" bowed to a meager 2.36 million viewers and a 1.1 rating in Fox's target demo, which translates to just 1.39 million adults ages 18 to 49. (The cartoon also squandered 35% of its "Family Guy" lead-in.) That said, the "Bordertown" premiere did not fall significantly when compared to the 1.3 demo rating that predecessor "The Last Man on Earth" averaged this fall in the Sunday 9:30 p.m. slot.

"Bordertown" launched in the crosshairs of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" matchup, which featured rivals Green Bay and Minnesota in a battle for the NFC North title and a home-field Wild Card berth. The Vikings prevailed 20-13 in a game that drew north of 21.5 million viewers and a 7.0 in the 18-to-49 demo.

If the NFL spoiled Mr. MacFarlane's opening night, football could help give "Bordertown" a boost this Sunday, when the Animation Domination block leads out of Fox's presentation of the Green Bay-Washington Wild Card game. While that pairing isn't likely to draw the 42.3 million viewers Fox delivered with the year-ago Lions-Cowboys Wild Card game, the two-hour block will almost certainly put up outsized numbers. (Last year, "The Simpsons" lead out of the late Sunday Wild Card showdown with 10.6 million viewers and a 4.7 demo, more than doubling its season average 4.82 million viewers/2.2 demo. And at 9:30 p.m., "Bob's Burgers" drew a 2.0, up 67% from its average 1.2 rating.)

"Bordertown" is Mr. MacFarlane's first new animated comedy since the "Family Guy" spinoff "The Cleveland Show" debuted in 2009. Fox ordered the series back in November 2013, and first introduced the concept to advertisers during the 2014-15 upfront presentation. Originally meant to premiere in March 2015, the series was held back twice before being trotted back out in last spring's upfront bazaar.

Among the top advertisers that bought time in "Bordertown" were Taco Bell, Hyundai, Kia, Progressive and Sprint. Fox also set aside a few ad units to promote its new Tuesday night comedy lineup.

Earlier in the night, Fox took the wraps off its other new Sunday comedy, the single-cam ensemble "Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life." Executive produced by former Fox entertainment president Gail Berman, the twenty-something sitcom also struggled against football, averaging just 2.63 million viewers and a 1.2 in the dollar demo. "Cooper" also saw 40% of its "Simpsons" lead-in evaporate in its 8:30 p.m. slot.

If the Jan. 10 installments of "Cooper" and "Bordertown" can expect to see a lift in their respective post-Wild Card slots, the same dynamic is unlikely to hold true the following week, when Fox hosts the 1:05 p.m. Divisional Playoff in Carolina. After that, both shows will go on a four-week hiatus, with plans to return on Feb. 14. (Fox is using the Jan. 24 NFC Championship Game as a launch pad for its six-part "X Files" reunion.)

"Cooper" replaces "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," which this week joins Fox's revamped Tuesday night comedy lineup in the 9 p.m. slot between "Grandfathered" and "The Grinder." In pulling "The Last Man on Earth" for "Bordertown" -- the Will Forte apocalypse comedy is set to return this spring, although no date or time slot has been announced -- Fox has ensured that "Cooper" is now the only live-action comedy in its Sunday night roster.

Among the most visible "Cooper" advertisers were Amazon Prime, Ford and Jack in the Box.

While the preliminary results for "Bordertown" and "Cooper" were less than promising, the premieres weren't the all-out disaster ABC had on its hands with the return of "Galavant." Back-to-back episodes of the medieval musical comedy delivered 3.22 million viewers and a 0.9 in the 18-to-49 demo, which marked a 55% decline from the 2.0 it drew in its year-ago premiere and matched its Jan. 18 series low.

In getting picked up for a second season last May, "Galavant" defied expectations. Per Nielsen, the show's eight installments averaged a 1.3 in live-plus-same-day ratings, which adjusted up a tick to a 1.4 in C3. Thumbing his nose to one of his show's noisiest online doomsayers, "Galavant" creator Dan Fogelman titled last night's opener "A New Season aka Suck It, Cancellation Bear."

"Galavant" was one of 15 scripted regular-season series renewed by ABC last spring. It tied the freshman anthology strip "American Crime" as the network's lowest-rated scripted show in the C3 currency. "American Crime" returns Wednesday, Jan. 6, where it will hold down the 10 p.m. "Nashville" slot. ABC in mid-December made the season two premiere available on iTunes.

ABC has ordered 10 episodes of "Galavant," which will run through Jan. 31. Sunday 8 p.m. time slot occupant "Once Upon a Time" isn't due to return until March 6.

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