'The Rookie's' So-So Ratings Could Still Be a Win for ABC

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ABC/Eric McCandless

The premiere of ABC's The Rookie drew a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 and 5.43 million viewers in ratings for Tuesday. Pretty much any way you look at it, those are average numbers.

How average? The network's three other 10 p.m. dramas are collectively at 1.0 and 5.04 million viewers in live-plus-same-day ratings over their first 10 episodes. Include all 13 of the 10 p.m. dramas on ABC, CBS and NBC and the average over 42 episodes is … 1.0 in the demo and 5.85 million viewers.

Yet here is how ABC touted The Rookie's ratings: "[The premiere] scored ABC's most-watched drama debut in the hour in over 7 1/2 years and tied as the top-rated with adults 18-49 in more than 4 1/2 years. … In addition, the show delivered ABC's best results with a drama telecast in the hour since September 2014 in viewers and [since September 2016] with adults 18-49."

That the new show can earn such superlatives for its extremely middle-of-the-pack ratings speaks to just how bad ABC's 10 p.m. Tuesday time slot has been in recent years. Since 2013, no series has lasted more than a single season there.

The previous most-watched drama debut ABC mentioned was that of Body of Proof, which delivered 13.94 million viewers for its March 2011 premiere. The last drama series to premiere in the spot with better than a 1.0 in adults 18-49 was Mind Games in February 2014.

(Forever occupied the 10 p.m. Tuesday slot starting in the 2014-15 season, but its series premiere aired on a Monday. Its first Tuesday episode scored a 1.7 rating in the demo and 6.62 million viewers.)

The Rookie tied last season's Kevin (Probably) Saves the World premiere in adults 18-49, but the last time an ABC 10 p.m. drama got above 1.0 in that hour was with a 1.1 for the fourth-season premiere of Agents of SHIELD on Sept. 20, 2016. The network has aired 47 drama episodes since then, and only the Kevin premiere hit 1.0.

Since Forever's Tuesday debut on Sept. 23, 2014, only 27 percent (20 of 74) drama episodes ABC has aired in the spot have reached the 1.0 mark in the demo. Eighteen of those were Forever episodes, but the show was also among the network's lowest-rated dramas in 2014-15 and was canceled after a single season.

Things have only gotten worse since then, to the point where if The Rookie can just keep itself within shouting distance of 1.0 for the season, it will represent a huge year-to-year improvement in the time period. In 2017-18, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and For the People averaged a paltry 0.6 same-day demo rating and 2.64 million viewers between them at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays.

That's a pretty low bar to clear for The Rookie. For ABC in that time period, average can look like a hit.