Nathan Fillion's The Rookie Can Thank American Idol For Midseason Premiere Ratings

nathan fillion the rookie abc
(Image credit: ABC)

The Rookie spent nearly three months on hiatus after a cliffhanger that left Officer Chen's fate in question, and the February 23 midseason premiere's return was much-hyped with the tease that Chen had been buried alive. Thanks to Season 18 of American Idol, more people than usual tuned in to see Nathan Fillion's John Nolan and Co. race to try and save her. Yes, The Rookie hit season highs with its latest episode.

Currently in its second season on ABC, Variety reports The Rookie hit a season high in both ratings and viewership at 10 p.m. ET following American Idol on February 23. The 0.8 rating in the key 18-49 age demographic beats the previous Season 2 best of 0.7. As for the audience size, the midseason premiere attracted an impressive 4.9 million, easily beating the previous Season 2 best of 4.1.

The Rookie had already proved itself a winner in delayed viewership, but this post-American Idol boost suggests that it could start attracting a live audience more regularly if the Idol viewers stick around after each episode to watch Nathan Fillion work for the LAPD this time. And hey, maybe the upcoming appearance of Pete Davidson in an unexpected role will attract viewers! Of course, American Idol itself was a bigger hit in both ratings and viewership.

Airing at 8 p.m. ET on February 23, American Idol won a rating of 1.4 in the 18-49 demo, with an impressive 7.5 million to go along with it. Those numbers are down from the previous week, which were a 1.5 rating and 8 million viewers. That said, the previous week was also the Season 18 premiere, and premieres often do better than regular season episodes.

By that logic, Rookie fans may want to expect the ratings and viewership to drop following the midseason premiere, even accounting for the post-American Idol time slot. ABC didn't hold back on promoting the February 23 broadcast as the midseason premiere, and the trailers for the episode didn't hold back on teasing Chen's possible death after being buried alive. Of course a "buried alive" plot is going to be a ratings-grabber!

Still, The Rookie hitting season highs with its first episode of 2020 is a good sign, and a buried alive plot could be a solid hook to newcomers who stuck around after American Idol. Considering that The Rookie (much like another network drama airing in the 10 p.m. time slot) airs late and Rookie's history with post-live numbers, the odds of delayed viewership continuing to impress are pretty good.

The weekly numbers for The Rookie should be interesting to keep an eye on as the second season progresses. American Idol itself was down from the previous year with its season premiere on February 16 (and had a much-hyped twist of its own on February 23), but the long-running (albeit on two different networks with a long break in between) musical competition series and the police procedural drama aren't exactly in the same category. Only time will tell how much Idol will or will not continue helping The Rookie moving forward.

For now, you can catch new episodes of The Rookie on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. For some more viewing options now and in the not-too-distant future, check out our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).