Fall’s buzziest new drama had a super-powered premiere Tuesday night: ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — a show so big it takes two company names to officially describe it — delivered 11.9 million viewers and a 4.6 adults 18-49 rating. That makes S.H.I.E.L.D. TV’s highest-rated drama debut in nearly four years (since ABC’s Vpremiere in November, 2009).
That adult demo number is particular impressive given the show’s time slot. S.H.I.E.L.D. had to self-start at 8 p.m. — no lead-in — and ran against huge competition: NBC’s The Voice and CBS’ NCIS are two of the most popular shows on television. And how did it stand up? S.H.I.E.L.D. actually managed to tie the two-hour The Voice overall in the demo (4.6) — and beat it head-to-head during the 8 p.m. hour — while trouncing the return of NCIS in the demo (3.4), though obviously losing among total viewers (19.4 million).
S.H.I.E.L.D. may be a new show, but it dove into the scrum with with a familiar brand. The Marvel universe has been bombarding theaters for years with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and The Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D. is basically a TV-sized spin-off. And tapping pre-existing fantasy universes was already proven to work with two recent primetime shows — ABC’s fairy tale-stuffed Once Upon a Time and The CW’s DC Comics lynchpinArrow. Now Fox is getting into the game by developing a Batman-verse series.
S.H.I.E.L.D. co-creator Joss Whedon, who previously launched modestly rated culty dramas like Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told EW that ratings for the new show don’t really matter — except for when they do. “I mean, I want it to be a hit because people who I work for have invested in it, and people I work with are in it, and writing it, and I want it to continue,” Whedon explained. “We have the opportunity to do something special. If it’s not special, hopefully it will go away. I think we’ll be okay there. But I can’t measure it in those terms. It doesn’t seem useful to me.”
For ABC, the good news didn’t stop with S.H.I.E.L.D. New comedy The Goldbergs opening strong (see chart below) and smacked down Fox’s New Girl. Trophy Wife did okay. But rather horrid new drama Lucky 7 was decidedly unfortunate at 10 p.m., scoring merely a 1.3 rating. Lucky 7 has the distinction of being the lowest-rated fall drama premiere in ABC history — and that’s despite starting the night with a 4.6!
On NBC at 10 p.m., The Voice hugely boosted Chicago Fire a whopping 47 percent from last year to beat Person of Interest in its new time slot; the CBS drama was down 21 percent from last fall’s Thursday debut.
As you can imagine, Fox’s comedy lineup took a big hit after last week’s premieres against hardly any competition. Dads dropped through the floor, down 32 percent. Brooklyn Nine-Nine fell 31 percent, New Girl was down 28 percent and Mindy Project fell 21 percent.