Television went to some distant and wonderful places in 2017, with more original scripted series airing than ever, and with an over-abundance of networks and streaming services to find them on. But something that hasn't changed very much is the popularity of broadcast network TV, even though numbers are generally down all across the board, and this year saw some interesting position changes at the top of the heap.
True, the NFL still reigns supreme when it comes to viewership and demo ratings, and 60 Minutes and The Voice remain top contenders in the unscripted sphere. But when it comes to scripted comedies and dramas, here are the 10 most watched shows of the 2017 fall TV season.
10. Will & Grace
Perhaps the most high-profile TV revival to happen yet, at least until Roseanne gets here, Will & Grace returned to NBC's Thursday night lineup and started bringing in viewers as if it had never left. With refreshed performances from the cast and a re-stoked fire behind the writing, Will & Grace had done a fine job of balancing its updated narratives with guest stars and fan service, wrapping some stories up in emotionally gratifying ways. The critics have enjoyed things, as evidenced in part by the show's multiple Golden Globe nominations, and audiences are clearly having a great time, giving the show totals that totally justify its rebirth.
Average Viewers: 11.3 million viewers
9. Grey's Anatomy
Fourteen years in the game, and Grey's Anatomy remains one of the biggest shows on TV. Though it's averaging only half of what its peak audiences were a decade ago, Grey's Anatomy has still kept a lot of fans watching and talking about the dramatic twists, and the medical drama has kept the storytelling varied and engaging by cycling through a relatively small but steady number of cast members over the years. The show's popularity is such that fans are actually getting a brand new spinoff soon that's focused on firefighters. No one should be surprised if it's on this list next year.
Average Viewers: 11.53 million viewers
8. NCIS: New Orleans
Scott Bakula is quite used to being a TV lead, and it was a great move to put him at the head of the Southern-made drama NCIS: New Orleans, which remains one of TV's most popular spinoffs. Unfortunately, NCIS: New Orleans' numbers have been dipping from year to year, so it might not be around on this list in 2018. Of course, the crime-driven CBS hit just landed a big syndication deal to start airing on TNT, so that could very well usher in a new wave of viewers in the near year, much as Netflix binge-watching has helped shows seen here, such as Grey's Anatomy.
Average Viewers: 12.3 million viewers
7. Blue Bloods
Though Friday night time slots normally mean doomsday for shows, Blue Bloods is the rare exception to the TV graveyard rule, and it has consistently been one of the most-watched shows in any given year. Season 8 has been particularly newsworthy among fans, following up on that big season finale cliffhanger and suffering a surprising exit from star Amy Carlson. Of course, some fans might have backed away from the show after what happened to Carlson's Linda Reagan, although it's hard to tell from the numbers themselves, which remain impressive week to week.
Average Viewers: 13 million viewers
Based on the numbers that Bull brings in, it wouldn't be surprising if CBS gave a new TV show to each and every cast member from NCIS that wanted one. (The same probably goes for Criminal Minds, since Shemar Moore's S.W.A.T. is bringing the ratings in as well.) Focusing more on the jury than traditional legal dramas, Bull relies heavily on the star power of longtime CBS star Michael Weatherly and other cast members, and though its sophomore season numbers are lower than the show's earliest stats, recent episodes are largely matching those in the back half of Season 1.
Average Viewers: 13.8 million viewers
5. Young Sheldon
Yeah, NCIS: New Orleans might have formerly been TV's most popular spinoff, but that title has been usurped by a nine-year-old. In telling the childhood story of The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper, Young Sheldon has captured the hearts and funny bones of many millions of people in the eight episodes that have aired this year. By taking a starkly different approach to its storytelling and tone, Young Sheldon is far from a Big Bang clone, though it similarly utilizes the strengths of its cast members to great effect. And Jim Parsons' narration probably doesn't hurt.
Average Viewers: 15.8 million viewers
Currently in Season 15, NCIS is the longest-running show on this list, and it's showing little sign of slowing down in the ratings game. Granted, it definitely skews older than many other TV shows out there, so its demo rating isn't top-notch, but NCIS has what most of those other shows don't have: over 16 million people watching it on a weekly basis. NCIS has introduced fans to a host of great side characters and guest stars over the years, but it'll soon be losing a major player in Pauley Perrette, so we're wondering how fans will react to a future without Abby around.
Average Viewers: 16.5 million viewers
3. This Is Us
Last year, NBC's This Is Us seemingly came out of nowhere and became the kind of show that every other person was talking about. Its overwhelming early success was not a sign of beginner's luck, either, as This Is Us continues to draw huge weekly audiences with its emotionally driven history of the Pearson family. After the show finally gives audiences all the answers behind Jack's death at some point in Season 2, it'll be interesting to see if viewers will still be around to share details, or if the mystery was the main thing driving interest.
Average Viewers: 16.6 million viewers
2. The Good Doctor
With This Is Us breaking new ground in the "dramas that make you want to cry" field, ABC got into the game with The Good Doctor, which House creator David Shore based on a South Korean drama of the same name. (It's the second extremely popular medical drama for ABC, which is clearly going with an "If it ain't broke..." mentality.) Star Freddie Highmore got his breakout fame playing Norman Bates on Bates Motel, but he's thankfully completely shed that role for The Good Doctor, where he makes medical magic happen in adorable ways.
Average Viewers: 16.7 million viewers
1. The Big Bang Theory
For years now, there has been no bigger show on TV than The Big Bang Theory, which remains the viewership king. Though its demo ratings have suffered in recent years, the show still manages to win over a wide swath of the TV-viewing public. (Even its repeat episodes score higher numbers than most other series.) Season 11 had the added bonus of following up on that proposal cliffhanger from last season, while also introducing yet another pregnancy to the ensemble. And it's not like fans are going to stop watching now, with Amy and Sheldon's presumably bizarro wedding on the way.
Average Viewers: 18 million viewers
Does this list sound like your weekly lineup, or did your favorite series miss the cut this year? Let us know. And, to see all the new and returning shows that'll be on your TVs in the coming months, head to our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.
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.
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