Sunday night had two much-anticipated premieres with major brand cross-over elements and both stunts paid off big time: There was Fox’s Family Guy crossing over with longtime animated frenemy The Simpsons in a one-hour episode at 9 p.m., and the fourth season return of Once Upon a Time introducing its arc based on the Disney hit Frozen at 8 p.m.
Both shows jumped in the ratings compared to last fall, with Fox’s animated series coming out on top: Family Guy (8.4 million, 4.5 rating among adults 18-49) bounced a whopping 73 percent from last season’s premiere and ranked as the night’s No. 1 entertainment program. This is Family Guy’s biggest rating in four years (here’s our take on the crossover). While Once Upon (9.3 million, 3.4) spiked an impressive 31 percent from last fall to mark its best ratings in nearly two years.
While Family Guy had larger ratings, in some ways this is better news for ABC’s show. Once Upon fell alarmingly in the numbers last season and it is rare for serialized dramas to stage a comeback. Plus, the Family Guy stunt was a one-time event, whereas the Frozen arc will continue through the first half of the season. Once Upon’s ratings also grew over the course of the hour, which is a good sign that the show held the interest of curious Frozen fans. Check out EW’s Once Upon recap here.
Fox also aired the season premiere of The Simpsons (8.5 million, 3.9) climbing 35 percent on the promise that one character was going to be killed off (here’s our interview with a Simpsons producer explaining the choice). Fox sandwiched the return of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (5.4 million, 2.6) right in between The Simpsons and Family Guy and Andy Samberg comedy jumped to match last year’s premiere.
Once Upon attempted to fuel the second season return of Resurrection (7.6 million, 2.2), but Frozen fans weren’t biting and the drama fell 42 percent from last year’s premiere. Also: Revenge (5.2 million, 1.4) is ready for the fork, down 39 percent from last year.
Over on CBS, the drama lineup deflated without any NFL support and with the big competition from NBC’s Sunday Night Football (which led the night) and ABC and Fox. Madam Secretary (12.7 million, 1.4) had a moment in the sun last week as the Most Watched New Series Premiere but last night was down 30 percent. Good Wife (11.2 million, 1.3) was down a tick from last week, and the return of CSI (9.7 million, 1.4) was down 30 percent from its Wednesday debut last year.