TV Ratings: 'Roseanne' Revival Skyrockets With Stunning Premiere

Roseanne Still Twenty Years to Life Episode - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Adam Rose/ABC

Roseanne returned Tuesday after two decades. The ABC sitcom kicked off its revived run with especially promising returns — dominating every other Big Four telecast of the night.

The first two episodes of Roseanne, a full hour at the top of the ABC lineup, won the night by both adults 18-49 and total viewers. The show averaged a 5.1 rating in the key demo and 18.1 million viewers, rising from the first half hour to the next. The first number alone is enough to make Roseanne the highest-rated regularly scheduled scripted show of the last few seasons, since Empire at its peak, as well as the highest-rated sitcom broadcast in over three years.

That's an incredibly strong start for the sitcom, thus far only committed to nine episodes. The easiest comparison is another revival, NBC's Will & Grace. The other reboot, one that helped jump-start Roseanne and the current trend, premiered with a 3.0 rating in the key demo and just over 10 million viewers at the start of the season.

ABC made a pretty bold move by having Roseanne go it alone at 8 p.m., without any lead-in. The hour has belonged to sitcoms The Middle and Fresh Off the Boat for the season up until now. Roseanne's brief run picks up next Tuesday, airing single episodes at 8 p.m. for another seven weeks.

The closest off-network competition came from NBC's The Voice, which posted a fatigued 1.6 rating among adults 18-49 against its surprisingly strong competition. As for the rest of its own night, ABC could obviously have won Tuesday in the demo on Roseanne alone, but the comedy served as a shot in the arm for Black-ish — which more than doubled recent scores for a 2.6 rating in the key demo. Freshman premiere Splitting Up Together also fared very well, earning a 2.2 rating and 7.2 million viewers. (The good retention seemed to stop at 10 p.m, where struggling first-year drama For the People managed to climb only to a 0.9 rating in the key demo.)

Reboots have been a big part of the TV narrative the past year, particularly at the broadcast networks. Will & Grace and Roseanne will be followed by Murphy Brown on CBS during the 2018-19 season, and rumblings of others (The Office, Mad About You) continue. Like Will & Grace, which was renewed through a third season of the new run, Roseanne made its comeback inspired by the current political climate. But unlike Will & Grace, or any other scripted offering on U.S. TV at the moment, Roseanne presents a more varied take on Donald Trump's America.

These shows are an easy way to cut through the clutter. They promote themselves, generally inspire initial tune-in and have established castmembers to do a lot of the heavy lifting — one reason ABC was able to pull in $175,000 for 30-second ads.

For now, it seems, that might have actually been a bargain.