‘Modern Family‘ gave every indication Wednesday that its audience is likely to continue growing in its second season. The acclaimed sitcom’s season premiere attracted 12.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen, emerging as the second-highest rated show on any network Wednesday night.
The audience tally for ‘Family’ – last month’s Emmy-winner for Best Comedy – represented a 19 percent increase over the series’ premiere in its first season a year ago. Even more gratifying for ABC: The sitcom was the night’s big winner in the age group network advertisers crave – 18-49s – scoring a 5.0 rating, a full point over ‘Survivor: Nicaragua‘ at 8 and ‘Criminal Minds’ at 9 on CBS (both of which had 4.0’s in the demo).
But the news for ABC’s ‘Cougar Town‘ was not good.
The second-season premiere of the Courteney Cox comedy drew only 8.3 million at 9:30, despite the widely promoted guest appearance of ‘Friends‘ co-star Jennifer Aniston. ‘Cougar Town’ lost one-third of the lead-in audience who watched ‘Modern Family’ – a drop that has to have ABC concerned. ‘Cougars’ was also down significantly from its debut a year ago, when it attracted an audience of 11.3 million.
The news was even worse for ABC as the night went on with ‘The Whole Truth,’ the new legal drama starring Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow at 10/9c. That show drew just 4.9 million – the lowest numbers of any show on any of the big networks (not counting CW).
‘The Whole Truth’ lost big to the season premiere of ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘ on NBC (10.3 million) and ‘The Defenders,’ the new CBS reboot of the 1960s legal drama of the same name. The new ‘Defenders’ won the timeslot with 12.1 million viewers.
In fact, except for ‘Modern Family,’ CBS dominated the evening. Episode Two of ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ attracted 12.5 million viewers from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the sixth-season premiere of ‘Criminal Minds’ scored 14.1 million from 9 to 10 – the highest-rated show on the night.
In other Wednesday highlights (or lowlights), ABC’s 8-9 p.m. comedy block of ‘The Middle’ (8.8 million) followed by the new sitcom ‘Better With You’ (8 million) averaged 8.4 million for the hour (making the performance of ‘Modern Family’ at 9 even more spectacular, since the show’s lead-in was less than stellar).
And the debut of the new NBC spy drama ‘Undercovers‘ – from wunderkind J.J. Abrams – drew a lackluster 8.4 million from 8 to 9.
What’s the next big ratings contest to watch for? That has to be Thursday night’s showdown at 8/7c between ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ the CBS hit that’s starting its fourth season on a new night, and ‘Community,’ the well-regarded but lower-rated comedy on NBC. While ‘Big Bang’ might take that contest, the results might be quite different at 8:30/7:30c when the season premiere of NBC’s ’30 Rock’ faces off against William Shatner’s new CBS comedy, ‘$#*! My Dad Says.’ Whatever happens, look for the 11th-season premiere of ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ at 9 to emerge as the evening’s big winner.