Reports are flying around that most of the series airing on the major networks on Monday nights are already suffering in the ratings. Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles got off to a good start when it premiered earlier in September but the ratings have dropped significantly since then. Meanwhile, the ratings for NBC’s Chuck and Life season premieres were lower than what they saw last season.

Entertainment Weekly posted the numbers and it seems as though most of the Monday night shows are taking a dive in the ratings. The few exceptions are Boston Legal, as well as The CW’s One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl, all of which have gained numbers. As for the series that are suffering, in addition to the shows I mentioned earlier, Heroes (NBC), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Two and a Half Men (CBS), Prison Break (Fox), and CSI: Miami (CBS) have all dropped in the ratings. ABC’s Dancing with the Stars dropped a bit from its season premiere but still managed to beat out all of the other series in the two-hour (8-10 PM) timeslot with 19.3 million viewers.

So what’s the problem? Here’s my first thought. There are two nights during the week when my TiVo is packed and I have to decide which shows I’m going to DVR (with a dual-tuner that allows me to record two shows at once) and which I’m going to have to watch via Hulu.com or some other online format: Monday’s and Thursdays. This season on Mondays during the 8 PM hour, I watch HIMYM and SCC and catch Chuck online. At 9 I watch Heroes. It’s not really a complaint that there are too many worth-watching series on TV on Monday night but I can understand how that might present a problem for other viewers, especially those who don’t have DVRs or access to streaming episodes online.

The series that are probably going to suffer the most are newer shows that already took a hit when the strike cut short their debut seasons. Chuck and Terminator: SCC, for example, both had short seasons last year (or in SCC’s case, earlier this year). Neither series had a full season to gain some solid momentum. Add that to the fact that they air on different networks at the same time (Mondays, 8:00 PM ET). Then go ahead and add that to the fact that both of them are likely to be targeting similar audiences (action geeks, scifi geeks, geek-geeks) and is it any wonder that both are having ratings-issues right now? As a self-proclaimed geek, I had a hard time choosing which of the two series I want to watch as it airs and which I’ll watch later on.

Quite a few of Monday night’s shows are available to view online and this is just speculation here but if there’s one series that’s airing on Monday nights where the majority of viewers are probably watching it as it airs, it’s Dancing with the Stars, which just so happens to be the ratings winner.

Since I just got on the topic of targeted audiences, let’s speculate on who is watching what. I know this won’t apply to everyone and I’m basing this largely on my own opinions of each series added to what I know of the TV preferences of people in various age and stereotypical-personality brackets.

Monday night at 8:00 PM

ABC: Dancing with the Stars - Families, older folks, reality TV fanatics and people who don’t like sex and violence (unless it’s masked with mostly-G-rated humor).

NBC: Chuck – Geeks, 20-30-somethings and a probably a few spy-show-junkies.

CBS: The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother - Teenagers through thirty-somethings. Though BBT is about geeks, I suspect few actual geeks care to see themselves made fun of so blatantly, so I doubt they make up that much of the series’ audience.

Fox: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - As I mentioned earlier, scifi geeks, action geeks, Terminator fans (most of which probably fit the geek-category to varying degrees) and probably more than a handful of Whedonites tuning in to watch Summer Glau kick ass.

The CW: Gossip Girl - Teenagers, young adults, mostly women and some guys who either watch it as a guilty pleasure or because they love the drama and the ridiculously good-looking cast.

Monday night at 9:00 pm ET

ABC: Dancing with the Stars - Again, families and older-folks.

NBC: Heroes - Geeks, young adults.

CBS: Two and a Half Men, Worst Week - Whichever older folks and families aren’t watching DWTS are probably tuning into this two-show comedy hour.

Fox: Prison Break - Action fans and regular viewers of the series who’ve been watching from the beginning.

The CW: One Tree Hill - Teenagers and young adults.

I think I got the above generalities down pretty accurately. Of course, the above isn’t going to apply to everyone but the point is, there’s too much overlap for comfort there with some of the newer shows. SyFy Portal is reporting a “rumor” that Fox isn’t too optimistic about Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles right now. It’s not as though the network has a reputation for holding on to their series once the ratings start to slip so this could be a very bad sign for the series, which I happen to think is great.

And while we’re on the subject of pessimism, looking at the suffering Monday night ratings, I can’t help but worry about how Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse will do in the planned 8:00 p.m. timeslot come midseason. At that point, SCC won’t be a factor (whether or not it’s still on the air, it’s a Fox series so we know it won’t be airing at the same time as Dollhouse) but there is still Chuck to worry about. I suppose if Fox does leave Dollhouse on Monday nights, we can hope that they’ll promote the crap out of it every chance they get during American Idol episodes.

So what are you watching on Monday nights? Or are you not watching TV at all? Have you found some other useful way to keep your brain occupied that the rest of us haven’t discovered? Post a comment below!

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