James Hibberd
November 25, 2011 AT 05:00 AM EST

Just two months ago, ABC’s Once Upon a Time had a poisoned apple’s chance in hell of becoming a hit and Two and a Half Men‘s ratings were expected to sag without Charlie Sheen. How quickly fortunes have changed! Here’s our breakdown of who’s soaring and who’s stalled…

Smart women, both funny and devious
CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Fox’s New Girl, and ABC’s Suburgatory are three of the highest-rated new series in the 18-49 age demographic, and all were created or co-created by female writers. And the complex heroines on breakout dramas like ABC’s Revenge and Showtime’s Homeland (which has already been renewed for season 2) have kept us coming back for more.

Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen
Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre proved he can boost a hit comedy’s ratings by 41 percent in the adult demo — even with Ashton Kutcher! Meanwhile, former Men star Sheen convinced FX to buy 10 episodes of a sitcom based on Anger Management.

Insiders had low expectations for ABC’s fall, but Once Upon a Time is TV’s highest-rated new drama among adults, Suburgatory has snuggled right into Wednesday nights, and Happy Endings (which is averaging 8.2 million viewers weekly) has grown into a solid companion for Modern Family.

Along with having the hit New Girl, Fox is on track to cinch its eighth straight season-topping victory in the 18-49 demo for two reasons: a dramatic World Series and time-slot-boosting performances by The X Factor, which have helped put the network in first place among adults earlier than usual this season (with American Idol yet to come). The worst that can be said is that Terra Nova disappointed (its fate is still unclear), but even that has been a solid self-starter on Mondays.

Scary series
The return of AMC’s The Walking Dead is delivering 9 million total viewers, and the show ranks as cable’s top-rated drama among young adults, while American Horror Story, from Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy, is FX’s most popular freshman drama ever with 4.2 million. Expect the number of event- ual knockoffs to be downright spooky.

Dumb, lost men
Is being a guy really so tough? CBS’ clueless-guy sitcom How to Be a Gentleman was axed, while similarly themed ABC’s Man Up! (7.2 million) fights for survival on Tuesday nights. Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing (12.1 million) also features a befuddled dude, but Allen’s got-a-pair confidence has kept the show’s ratings from wussing out.

ABC’s Charlie’s Angels was canceled, and NBC has stopped production on its reboot of Prime Suspect. Broadcasters have yet to learn the lesson and are currently developing new editions of The Munsters, Bewitched, The Rifleman, The Flintstones, and Frankenstein. Losing-trend runner-up: the 1960s (just ask NBC’s defunct The Playboy Club and ABC’s struggling-to-stay-aloft Pan Am).

Is the Peacock totally plucked? None of its new shows tallies more than 7 million viewers, while even former hits like The Biggest Loser have emaciated ratings. Down 10 percent in the 18-49 demo from last fall, NBC is in ratings quicksand, making it tough to launch new shows. At least its top-rated series among adults, The Office, has largely survived Steve Carell’s departure (it’s down ”only” 22 percent). The return of The Voice and the buzzy new drama Smash in February should throw the network a vine, but can NBC pull itself out?

The CW
Just because The Coquettish Women network ordered full seasons of Ringer, The Secret Circle, and Hart of Dixie doesn’t make the new shows hits. Streaming deals with Hulu and Netflix may eventually help The CW reach more viewers, but with ratings down 25 percent among its target demographic (women 18-34), what the network really needs is bigger draws.

Winner & Loser
Simon Cowell
He predicted an enormous 20 million viewers for the U.S. version of The X Factor and has to contend with a mere really big 12.7 million. Here’s a thought to bake your noodle: If Cowell and Fox had not hyped Factor as the biggest reality TV event since, well, American Idol, the show might have performed worse. So who’s to say overconfidence does not pay off?

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