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What TV's Biggest Ratings Hits Of Fall 2021 Mean For 2022

9-1-1 heroes of the 118 fox season 5
(Image credit: Fox)

The big four broadcast networks got back to business more or less as usual for the 2021-2022 TV season compared to the late start back in fall of 2020, and the fall ratings competition was stiff between ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Although the season is technically only half over with most major scripted shows running until late spring after winter hiatus, the numbers for the fall can indicate a lot about what to expect (and not expect) next on the small screen. So, as 2022 kicks off, let’s take a look at the 13 biggest ratings hits in scripted TV across the major four networks, and what their numbers could mean for the new year! 

In the interest of finding the most fair comparisons, I’m going to use the average Live+7 totals – a.k.a. the ratings and audience size for shows within seven days of an episode airing – in the valuable 18-49 age demographic for the scripted shows with the best numbers, starting with a Fox series at #1!

firefighters of the 118 blackout 9-1-1

(Image credit: Fox)

1. 9-1-1/Fox - Season 5

Following the fall half of 9-1-1’s fifth season, TVLine’s Fox report reveals that the show is averaging an excellent 1.4 rating and audience of 8.34 million viewers. 9-1-1 doesn’t have the biggest audience size of the Top 13, but the 1.4 puts it at the top of the ratings and sets it up for a strong second half of the season. That said, the show won’t actually be back for the second half of Season 5 until March, with Fox giving its time slot to spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star in early 2022. The high numbers for 9-1-1 could benefit Lone Star, but will the long break result in a ratings drop come spring?

taylor kinney as kelly severide chicago fire season 10

(Image credit: NBC)

2. Chicago Fire/NBC - Season 10

With a rating of 1.3 and audience of 9.95 million, the NBC report from TVLine proves that Chicago Fire is one of two shows that come very close to at least tying the top spot in the ratings and actually beat 9-1-1 in viewership. That is quite an accomplishment for a show that is not only in its tenth season, but also lost its top-billed actor after only five episodes in fall 2021. With Fire returning in the first week of the new year after the midseason finale ended on a cliffhanger for what has become the show’s biggest couple, the odds are good that the show will start 2022 strong. 

chicago pd season 9 halstead upton voight nbc

(Image credit: NBC)

3. Chicago P.D./NBC - Season 9

Chicago P.D. is the second show that nearly ties 9-1-1’s ratings and beats it in audience size with a 1.3 rating and viewership of 9.25 million, tying Chicago Fire's ratings and coming close in the number of viewers. This is particularly impressive for P.D., as it is the One Chicago show that reliably comes in third behind both Chicago Med and Chicago Fire on Wednesdays in the initial Live+Same day numbers, only to receive a big boost in delayed numbers. That has been a consistent trend for years, and undoubtedly will continue in the new year. 

Meredith Grey smiles on Grey's Anatomy.

(Image credit: ABC)

4. Grey's Anatomy/ABC - Season 18

Based on the numbers from TVLine’s ABC report, Grey’s Anatomy breaks the One Chicago streak with a rating of 1.3 and audience size of 6.67 million. The average number of viewers is well below the other shows that scored a 1.3, but the long-running ABC show is still going strong. For a show nearly 20 seasons in with a leading lady who thinks the show can end, that’s certainly worth bragging about for ABC. Grey's returns for the second half of the season in February, so not right away in 2022 but not quite pushed back to spring. 

chicago med will halstead sharon goodwin season 7 nbc

(Image credit: NBC)

5. Chicago Med/NBC - Season 7

And we’re back to One Chicago on NBC, courtesy of Chicago Med! Although Med generally delivers Live+Same numbers that are close to Fire, it comes in third in Live+7 with a 1.2 rating and audience of 9.17 million thanks to P.D.'s big delayed viewing bump. The audience size is larger than Grey’s Anatomy by more than 2 million, however, and only just under P.D. Med was also up against some stiff unscripted competition in the fall TV season courtesy of The Masked Singer on Fox and Survivor on CBS, so it’s possible that it will get a boost in 2022 with Survivor and The Masked Singer finished for the season.

law and order svu season 23 olivia benson nbc

(Image credit: NBC)

6. Law & Order: SVU/NBC - Season 23

Law & Order: SVU is the longest-running live-action show to rank in the Top 13 after the fall season with average numbers of 1.2 rating and 6.63 million. At 23 seasons and counting, SVU making the Top 5 in ratings (when accounting for the tie between Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Grey’s Anatomy) is more than a little impressive. This is after losing two series regulars at the beginning of the season. Like the One Chicago shows (with which the Law & Order shows share a universe), SVU is returning early in the new year, so the odds are good for ratings and viewership numbers to remain strong in 2022, especially considering the upcoming return of Law & Order to create a full block of L&O primetime for NBC. 

law and order organized crime season 2 stabler

(Image credit: NBC)

7. Law & Order: Organized Crime/NBC - Season 2

Right on the heels of SVU is spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime in its second season, with a rating of 1.1 and audience of 5.86 million. Considering shows like OC that air at 10 p.m. ET generally score lower numbers than those in earlier time slots, the spinoff coming close to SVU is a nice feat in Season 2. And, like SVU, it could benefit from the February return of Law & Order to create a three-hour block of closely-knit shows. The three-hour One Chicago block is hugely successful for NBC on Wednesdays (see above), and the same could be true for the L&O shows on Thursdays in 2022.

ncis season 19 cast parker mcgee knight torres

(Image credit: CBS)

8. NCIS/CBS - Season 19

And now, we get into another set of shows that tied with each other in the ratings, ranked by which have the largest audiences. CBS’ NCIS is actually easily the winner overall when it comes to audience size with 11.43 million viewers, according to the CBS fall numbers from TVLine. That said, it’s not quite as dominant in the ratings, although the 1.0 is certainly not bad. This is in spite of NCIS losing Mark Harmon’s Gibbs in arguably the biggest cast departure on a major broadcast show in the fall season. The show is still going strong, and is a solid lead-in for freshman spinoff NCIS: Hawai’i, even though Hawai’i doesn’t crack the Top 13. With a January 3 return date, it is another show returning early and likely to do well. 

fbi cbs

(Image credit: CBS)

9. FBI/CBS - Season 4

The CBS ratings train keeps rolling with the fourth season of FBI, which is not only the highest-rated of the three FBI shows but was also the second most-viewed show on all four broadcast networks in the fall, behind just NCIS. The current average for FBI is a rating of 1.0 and audience of 9.97 million, putting it just over Chicago Fire’s audience of 9.95 million over on NBC. (Interestingly, FBI and Fire technically share a universe, although quite tangentially at this point.) FBI is far more procedural than serialized, and the numbers so far prove that it’s working with viewers heading into 2022. With its early return in the new year, there’s no reason to expect the show to start tanking.

Queen Latifah The Equalizer screenshot

(Image credit: CBS)

10. The Equalizer/CBS - Season 2

The Equalizer has the bragging rights of averaging the highest ratings of any scripted series airing on a weekend, with its Sunday episodes scoring an average rating of 1.0 and audience of 9.67 million. It places fourth in audience size as well, behind just NCIS and FBI on its own network, and then Chicago Fire on NBC. The Queen Latifah series has settled into its Sunday night time slot of 8 p.m. ET on CBS, and despite generating some less-than-positive buzz due to actor Chris Noth, it should continue to do well when it returns on January 2. 

young sheldon iain armitage cbs season 5

(Image credit: CBS)

11. Young Sheldon/CBS - Season 5

With Young Sheldon, we have not only the highest-rated comedy of the fall with a 1.0, but also the most-watched comedy by far. With its 9.13 million, it comes in behind only fellow CBS shows NCIS, FBI, and The Equalizer and the three One Chicago shows on NBC. That’s more than a little impressive, particularly since it actually tied NCIS, FBI, and The Equalizer in the ratings with the 1.0. It’s not the only comedy in the Top 13, but the biggest shows are almost entirely dramas, so CBS has something very good going heading into 2022 with Young Sheldon.

Andy Herrera looks horrified on Station 19.

(Image credit: ABC)

12. Station 19/ABC - Season 5

Another show with a 1.0 rating is Station 19 over on ABC as the hit Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, with a solid average audience of 6.27 million. It trails Grey’s Anatomy fairly significantly in Live+7 but still is among the top shows of the fall. Even coming in at #12 due to the smaller audience compared to NCIS, FBI, The Equalizer, and Young Sheldon, it holds the same 1.0 rating as all four. Station 19 and Grey’s are also the only two ABC shows in the Top 13, proving that ABC – like NBC and CBS – has a good thing going with its shared universe. Not returning until February might not work in the show’s favor, but it’s returning with a Grey’s crossover, so starting 2022 with an event is likely going to benefit Station 19.

Bart in the treehouse with Lisa, Maggie, and Milhouse

(Image credit: Fox)

13. The Simpsons/Fox - Season 33

With The Simpsons, we have the last scripted show to hit a 1.0 rating or higher on average in the fall, as well as the show with the longest run so far with 33 seasons beating SVU’s 23. Season 33 currently averages a 1.0 rating and audience of 3.21 million, making it the least-watched of the 1.0-rated shows by far but only the second comedy to make the Top 13, after Young Sheldon. It is also the only other show that airs on a weekend to make the list, behind The Equalizer. The Simpsons may be all but unstoppable at this point even if the records that it breaks aren’t necessarily in the ratings. 

So, there we have the 13 shows that broke a 1.0 or higher in the ratings on average in the fall of the 2021-2022 TV season! There are series that averaged 0.9, like NBC’s La Brea, CBS’ FBI: Most Wanted and Ghosts, and ABC’s The Good Doctor and The Conners, and it’s possible that those that are still going heading into 2022 could overtake some of those averaging a 1.0. Only time will tell! For when the biggest shows are returning in the new year, be sure to check out our 2022 winter and spring premiere schedule!

Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.