After a summer hiatus that was even longer than usual due to production shutdowns across the board in the spring, TV is officially back for the fall season. The season is still young, but as of the week of September 27, the small screen has just about everything to offer. Whether you're interested in scripted series, reality drama, musical competitions, game shows, or even just some good old-fashioned animation, this past week had something in store. That said, not all offerings have the same appeal, and the time has come to take a look at the ratings! Read on for the rundown of the biggest ratings twists of the last seven days.
Note: all ratings are from the key 18-49 age demographic.
South Park Scores Big With Pandemic Special
South Park went the better part of a year following the Season 23 finale back in December 2019 without any new content, but Comedy Central delivered a first in South Park history on September 30 with "The Pandemic Special." The special ran for an hour and tackled current events with the COVID-19 pandemic from just about every angle, and the result was a major win in the ratings and viewership.
It stands as the #1 scripted cable telecast of 2020 and the highest-rated South Park telecast in seven years with 2.06 in the key 18-49 demographic. Throw in the 4.05 million viewers across the night of September 30, and Comedy Central had a big winner. In fact, the 2.06 was up 168% from the previous season average. Still, the numbers come from more than just the initial broadcast at 8 p.m. ET. The special actually aired three times on the night of September 30, with 2.3 million viewers coming from Comedy Central.
First Presidential Debate On Dueling Networks
With the presidential election only a little over a month away, it was time for the first presidential debate on September 29 despite the pandemic. Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden squared off against incumbent President Trump in a two-hour back-and-forth starting at 9 p.m. ET that took over the airwaves for every broadcast network aside from The CW. The result was some killer numbers across ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, but the numbers weren't equal between them. So, which network won the debate ratings?
That honor goes to ABC, which TV Series Finale reports hit an impressive 2.8 rating in the key demo and was viewed by 10.9 million people, edging out the competition in the ratings and easily defeating the competition in audience size. NBC was second in the ratings with a 2.2, but last in viewership with 4.09 million. CBS was fourth in ratings with 1.2 but second in audience with 5.28 million, and Fox came in third in both ratings and viewership with 1.3 and 4.36 million. ABC wins, likely helped by starting the night at 8 p.m. ET with 20/20: Trump vs. Biden to lead into the debate.
The Masked Singer Surprises
The Masked Singer is back on Fox for Season 4, which is bad news for every show that shares the 8 p.m. time slot on Wednesdays! The Fox series aired its history-making second episode of the fourth season on September 30, and it easily won the night in both ratings and viewership. With a 1.7 rating and audience of 6.48 million, its closest competition -- which was Big Brother on CBS with a 1.0 and 4.21 million -- didn't pose any kind of threat. So how did The Masked Singer surprise?
According to TV Series Finale, The Masked Singer's numbers jumped from the first to the second episode of Season 4. As a general rule, shows tend to premiere seasons to higher numbers than they hold onto, but The Masked Singer rose more than 6% in the ratings and nearly 10% in audience size. If these numbers hold and/or continue to increase, The Masked Singer may not have to worry about any competition until Chicago Med returns to NBC later this fall, assuming the Med production suspension doesn't prevent its Season 6 premiere.
Can The Simpsons Set A Trend?
The Simpsons kicked off Season 32 with a premiere that crushed almost all the competition on September 27, and certainly all the scripted offerings. The first episode of Season 32 scored a 2.0 rating in the key demo, with 5.54 million viewers. Not only are those numbers impressive, but they represent huge growth from Season 31. According to TV Series Finale, the 2.0 was a bump of more than 127% and the 5.54 million was a bump of nearly 138%. But is the the start of a trend? I'm inclined to say no. The Season 32 premiere of The Simpsons was almost certainly inflated by the NFL coverage that preceded it on Fox, which ended its broadcast with a 4.7 rating and more than 15 million viewers.
If we look at Fox's Animation Domination block, starting with The Simpsons going very strong at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, then we see Bless the Harts premiering to slightly above average numbers at 8:30 p.m., Bob's Burgers debuting to slightly below average numbers at 9 p.m., and Family Guy with the most significant Animation Domination drop at 9:30. The increasing dips as the night passed indicate that a good percentage of football viewers stuck around after the NFL broadcast, but stopped watching Fox by the time Family Guy rolled around
The 100 Series Finale Doesn't Transcend The Competition
The week of September 27 delivered a major TV event for one of the broadcast networks, but the ratings and viewership weren't all that great. The 100 came to an end after seven seasons with a series finale that tied off a lot of loose ends and delivered a transcending ending that arguably isn't all that happy. Still, The CW can at least be satisfied with the Wednesday numbers this week. The series finale scored a 0.2 rating and an audience of 0.63 million.
While those would be pretty abysmal numbers for any one of the other broadcast networks and they were easily the lowest in the 8 p.m. slot on September 30, the 0.2 rating was a 100% increase over the previous week's 0.1, and the audience jumped 20% to reach that 0.63 million. It's possible that the increases are more due to morbid curiosity about the promised surprise guests (which didn't include a certain major character) than anything else, but either way, The 100 realistically couldn't have hoped for much better.
Another week of TV is on the way, so be sure to check back with CinemaBlend for the latest notable news! For some of what you can watch now and in the not-too-distant future, take a look at our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule.