NBC might think about combing Hollywood in search of other beloved stars on the verge of turning 90 because Betty White’s 90th birthday celebration handed the network a gift Monday night — unusually high ratings.
Her 90-minute, 90th birthday special won all three of its half-hours Monday night, even against the high-rated sitcoms on CBS, according to Nielsen overnights. And then, a fourth half-hour devoted to introducing a new show hosted by Betty — “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” — won its own time period for good measure.
If not for Brian Williams’ low-rated “Rock Center” bringing down NBC’s average, the network might have won the night. Instead, it finished in second place, just barely behind CBS — a great night for NBC, which has struggled mightily on Monday nights this season.
In her new show, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” spunky seniors play pranks on young people. Monday night’s airing was billed as a “sneak peek” because NBC has yet to set an official premiere date for this series.
Meanwhile, here’s the Monday ratings rundown, or How Betty White Dominated a Night of Television at Age 90:
Her 90-minute birthday special — 8-9:30 p.m. (7-8:30c) — averaged 13.855 million viewers. At 9:30/8:30c, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” averaged 12.233 million. NBC’s average for the three hours of prime time: 10.823 million, second to CBS’s three-hour average of 11.08 million.
The difference came down to that 10-11 p.m. hour (9-10c): “Rock Center” had a lowly 5.569 million viewers, while “Hawaii Five-O” on CBS had 10.501 million.
As for the other half-hours: At 8/7c, Betty (12.963 million) beat “How I Met Your Mother” (10.122 million); at 8:30, Betty (14.222 million) bested “2 Broke Girls” (11.292 million); at 9, Betty’s birthday (14.38 million) vanquished “Two and a Half Men” (12.896 million); and at 9:30, “Off Their Rockers” beat “Mike & Molly” (11.166 million).
Also notable: Betty may also have put a dent in the two-hour premiere of J.J. Abrams’ new series “Alcatraz” on Fox. The show did pretty well, though, averaging just shy of 10 million viewers (9.967 million) from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (7-9c).
And it should be noted: While “Betty White’s 90th Birthday” did win it’s time period in total viewers, the audience skewed older than the CBS sitcoms, which did far better than “Betty” in the younger demo, 18-49.
A wee bit of trivia:
Betty White was born on Jan. 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Ill. IMDB.com dates her first TV appearance to 1949 (63 years ago) as “phone girl” in a show called “Hollywood on Television.”
Her 90th birthday special is only the second one we’re aware of that has ever aired on NBC, or any other network. The other one was a Bob Hope 90th birthday show that aired on a Saturday night back in May 1993. That special also did well — ranking 17th among 84 prime-time shows on the networks that week.