The 10 Most-Watched Network TV Shows That Premiered In 2016

The 2015-2016 TV season is down to just a couple of shows that have yet to air their finales, but the numbers are already in for how many people watched everything on network TV in the last 9 months. The top of the list was unsurprisingly home to NFL telecasts and The Big Bang Theory, and the top 20 was rounded out by encore airings of NCIS, of all things.

We decided to look a little closer at the big list for this, in order to get an idea of how popular network TV’s latest offerings have been, so here are the 10 most-watched broadcast series that premiered in 2016, according to Deadline. There are some surprises to be found here, particularly when it comes to how many of these shows have been cancelled at this point. Speak of the devil, here’s our first entry.

the family

10. The Family

Debuting in March, The Family was a thrilling-to-some look into the life of the Warren family as they welcomed home son Adam (or is he?), who had been kidnapped a decade earlier. The show had some big star power with Joan Allen and Rupert Graves (or is he?) at the head of it, and it came in as the 104th most watched show of the season, with an average of 4.72 million people tuning in for its shortened schedule. The Family also came in 88th place in terms of the key 18-49 demographic, for which it earned a respectable 1.4 rating. But none of those looked like boastable stats to ABC, which cancelled The Family earlier this month.


9. Heartbeat

Based on the real story of Dr. Kathy Magliato, Heartbeat debuted on NBC in March and starred Melissa George as one of the most well-known heart surgeons on the planet as she transitioned into a new job as the head of a top-notch research hospital. Around 4.97 people watched Heartbeat on a weekly basis, putting it just inside the Top 100. But the show clearly appealed more to older viewers, as its demo rating of 0.9 did not help its chances of staying on the air very long. And it was indeed cancelled this month, with no chance for Season 2 at NBC.

rush hour

8. Rush Hour

A small screen remake of the hit action comedy film franchise, CBS’ Rush Hour didn’t do much with the formula of an outgoing black cop being partnered with a more tight-lipped Chinese cop, and the show didn’t feel all that fresh as a result. But it still managed to bring in over 5.4 million viewers a week, though its 1.1 demo rating spoke to the fact that people who weren’t born when Rush Hour first hit theaters probably weren’t going to be too interested in the retread edition on TV. CBS brought the ax down on Rush Hour some weeks back.

the catch

7. The Catch

Though things aren’t quite perfect in ShondaLand on Thursday nights, there is definite cause for celebration that twisty drama The Catch brought in an average of 6.57 million people per episode, and earned a 1.5 demo rating throughout Season 1. The show stars Mireille Enos and Peter Krause as an engaged couple caught in a fraud-based game of cat-and-mouse with one another. ABC is apparently happy with those numbers, as The Catch was renewed for Season 2, which will presumably premiere in the midseason slot in early 2017.


6. Lucifer

For all the protest ruckus that started before Lucifer debuted on Fox, the sly and winking drama managed to find itself a decent and steady audience during its sin-filled freshman season. 7.17 million people or so tuned in each week to watch Tom Ellis work his devilish magic on Los Angeles and Lauren German’s LAPD detective as he helps to solve crimes while avoiding his hellish otherworldly responsibilities. The (extremely loose) comic book adaptation also brought in a good dose of younger viewers, and though it came in tied overall at #27 in the demo department with a 2.4 rating, that was actually the second highest of all the shows that premiered in 2016. Season 2 is coming this fall, so none of that waiting around until winter this time.

criminal minds beyond borders

5. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders

The era of procedural spinoffs isn’t yet behind us, as evidenced by Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders debuting in 2016, and it’s also evident that people aren’t ready for it to be behind us. The globetrotting show stars Gary Sinese, Alana de la Garza and Tyler James Henry (and others) as Special Agents who handle cases involving American citizens wrapped up in international situations. 9.02 million people followed these cases from week to week, with a decent 1.8 demo rating. CBS definitely wanted more from Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and the network put in the renewal order a couple of weeks ago.

angel from hell

4. Angel From Hell

While a primetime comedy starring Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson and Kevin Pollock sounds like a show destined to stay around for years, Angel from Hellwas not allowed to stick around CBS beyond its first five episodes, which were heavily panned by critics. Because its shortened run didn’t allow a sizable audience dropoff, Angel from Hell managed to attain a 1.9 demo rating and an average audience of 9.04 million people. Now, numbers like that might make you question why CBS decided to end the midseason comedy (which was delayed from its original fall premiere), but it probably goes back to how much people seemed to hate it.

shades of blue

3. Shades of Blue

10 years ago, who could have predicted a cop drama with Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta would be among the biggest new shows of the year? Shades of Blue is the intense story of a dirty cop tasked with ratting on other dirty cops to get out of an arrest. The show’s keep-you-guessing narrative won over 9.87 viewers a week, making it the 35th most-watched show of the year, with a demo rating of 2.3. NBC was all about keeping the Adi Hasak-created drama around, ordering up a second season after only four episodes of Season 1 had aired.

little big shots

2. Little Big Shots

Little Big Shots was created by Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey, and its 8-episode first season (which also had a clip episode) saw a number of gifted children showcasing a variety of talents (in singing, dancing, etc.) to both the world and Steve Harvey, an entertainer who’d always been destined to have silly conversations with kids on primetime TV. America ate that adorableness up, making Little Big Shots one of the rare new shows that built on its premiere audience in the following weeks rather than losing some of it. The unscripted show was watched by 12.39 million people weekly, earned a 2.3 demo rating, and you are guaranteed to see Season 2 on NBC in the future.


1. The X-Files

Yeah, I know The X-Files isn’t REALLY a new show, but it hasn’t been on the air for 14 years, so there should be no one begrudging its place here. The former TV staple came back in January for a six-episode miniseries that some fans loved and some fans weren’t as fond of, and though the future of The X-Files is uncertain at this point, Fox has to feel good that it was not only the top new show of the year, but also the 7th most-watched series overall, with 13.59 million people catching it weekly. Its 4.8 demo rating was also massive, and was #5 on the list overall. The truth – that people love this show – is definitely out there.

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Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.