James Hibberd
April 05, 2013 AT 03:29 PM EDT

Hannibal performed better last night than many had feared given its brutal time period.

Coming in third place in NBC’s 10 p.m. Thursday “death slot” against original episodes of ABC’s Scandal and CBS’ Elementary, the new crime drama had 4.3 million viewers and a 1.6 in the adult demo. That’s NBC’s best rating in the hour with entertainment programming in more than a year. It’s up 78 percent from the debut of the short-lived Do No Harm in January and climbed 45 percent from its special Go On lead-in.

What’s surprising is that NBC decided not to give Hannibal a lead-in from The Voice on Tuesdays (instead, NBC will use The Voice to launch the upcoming reality effort Ready for Love). The network has successfully used The Voice to support an apocalyptic drama (Revolution) and a couple sitcoms (Go On, New Normal).

You could say that family friendly Voice isn’t the ideal pairing for a Gothic crime show like Hannibal, but neither was Go On. Frankly, when you’re performing battlefield surgery on a primetime lineup, you don’t have room for such distinctions. Creatively Hannibal is NBC’s best new drama this season. It scored a higher average on Metacritic than any other of the network’s freshman dramas and it deserved a bigger push — at least a special post-Voice preview airing for its premiere (instead, NBC double-pumped the struggling New Normal after The Voice this week). Hopefully the show can build in the coming weeks; Chicago Fire showed it’s possible to gradually grow a 10 p.m. audience on NBC this season. Check out our interview with showrunner Bryan Fuller talking about Hannibal‘s The Shining shout-outs.

In fact, I’m going to embed the Hannibal pilot via Hulu in this post. It’s below after the chart. See what you think.

On Fox, American Idol declined to yet another all-time low– wait. What’s that? Idol went up? Are you sure? Sorry, we are so used to writing about weekly Idol ratings drops out of habit. Idol improved 4 percent this week.

Fox continued to experiment with New Girl and Mindy Project in the 9 p.m. hour. Both are down about 8 percent from Tuesday but still beat NBC. Somewhere in Fox there’s probably somebody doing calculations trying to figure out if a slightly lower rating for these shows, if they were here permanently next fall, would equal more revenue since advertisers pay more for Thursday shows.

Also Thursday: NBC’s Community hit a series low. CBS’ Big Bang Theory returned to about the same rating after being off for three weeks, while Men was up 12 percent and POI and Elementary were down about 8 percent. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy was down 7 percent while last week’s EW cover subject Scandal perked up 4 percent resulting in the two soaps tying for only the second time in their history.

Full Chart:

FOX 8-9P AMERICAN IDOL #3 2.8 11,275
9:00P NEW GIRL S #8 2.0 4,866
9:30P MINDY PROJECT S #12 1.4 3,522
ABC 8-9P WIFE SWAP #13 1.2 4,102
9-10P GREY ANATOMY #4t 2.7 8,394
10-11P SCANDAL #4t 2.7 8,114
CBS 8:00P BIG BANG #1 4.9 16,785
8:30P TWO&HALF MEN #2 3.8 13,577
9-10P PERSON INTEREST #4t 2.7 14,340
10-11P ELEMENTARY #7 2.1 10,362
NBC 8:00P COMMUNITY #15 1.0 2,413
8:30P PARK & REC- #11 1.5 2,923
9:00P OFFICE #9 1.7 3,421
9:30P GO ON P #14 1.1 2,432
10-11P HANNIBAL P #10 1.6 4,311
CW 8-9P VAMPIRE DIARIES R #16 0.4 1,159
9-10P BEAUTY&BEAST R #17 0.2 751

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