At a time when major banks and mortgage companies are going under every day, it’s nice to know that Americans aren’t too panicked to invest in a little couch time with the TV. In a turnaround from last season — when the writers’ strike threw, oh, everything into chaos — the first week of the new fall season proved that the major networks are definitely doing, well, kinda okay. The return of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (21.3 million) roughly matched last year’s premiere numbers. The season premieres of hits such as Grey’s Anatomy (18.5 million) and Desperate Housewives (18.4 million) saw only slight dips. Still, both shows are expected to regain viewers once their final DVR numbers are tallied. (Twenty-eight percent of homes now have recorders, up from 20 percent last year.)
Who should be concerned? NBC, for one, has a lot of woes. Its much-hyped Knight Rider reboot snagged just 7.3 million fans, while Heroes has shed 3.4 million viewers since last year. Fox is seeing some problems too, as the once-promising Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles continues to struggle.
Now for the unequivocally good news: CBS posted gains over last year with debuts from warhorses CSI: New York (14.6 million), NCIS (18 million), and Criminal Minds (17 million). It also logged the season’s first new hit with The Mentalist (15.6 million). And while its numbers may be small in comparison, The CW’s Gossip Girl (3.3 million) stayed healthy. ”It might be the mood of the country, but people definitely seemed to be looking forward to their old favorites coming back,” says Kelly Kahl, CBS’ senior exec VP of programming. ”TV is great comfort food.” Not to mention less than $4 a gallon.