TV Ratings: TNT Gets Much-Needed Hit With 'Murder in the First'

Cable has its first big scripted offering of the summer, with the Steven Bochco drama opening to 4.9 million viewers over the course of the night after the return of the net's flagship.
Eddy Chen
"Murder in the First"

TNT can breath a sigh of relief on Tuesday. Kicking off its summer scripted block on Monday night, the cable network now boasts its biggest series premiere in two years with the debut of Murder in the First.

Following an exceptionally strong lead-in from flagship Major Crimes (5.2 million viewers), the Steven Bochco drama opened as cable's top series launch of 2014 with 3.8 million viewers during its inaugural telecast. (With two telecasts apiece, Major Crimes pulled a total 6.7 million viewers with Murder in the First nabbing 3.8 million.)

It's exceptionally good news for TNT, coming out of a softer winter with the non-starter launch of Mob City and the failure of last summer's big drama play, King and Maxwell. Turner programming chief Michael Wri‎ght underscored his drama-focused network's need for a new hit during the May upfront. And, indeed, summer sees an ambitious rollout, with Michael Bay's The Last Ship and Howard Gordon's Legends in the pipeline after Murder in the First.

On top of the dependable launchpad from Major Crimes, TNT's crown jewel since the departure of parent series The Closer, the network can thank hefty exposure from its recent NBA coverage. In the adults 18-49 demo, where TNT is increasingly focused after years catering to the 25-54 set, Murder in the First brought in a total 1.1 million viewers for the night.

Murder in the First marks another departure for network content as well. Paired with procedural fare (Major Crimes, Rizzoli & Isles), Murder in the First serializes the story of one murder over the course of 10 episodes — a method more often employed by the likes of AMC, HBO and Showtime.

"Last night was a terrific opening night for TNT's summer lineup, as well as the start of what's certain to be a summer of outstanding TNT dramas," said Wright of Monday's ratings. "We are extremely proud of these two series. Major Crimes is a true mega-hit as it enters its third season, with an ensemble cast that's second to none. Murder in the First is off and running with an utterly captivating mystery brought to life by an amazing cast."