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'Chuck' ratings are just good enough

January 12, 2010 |  5:59 pm

NUP_136531_0023 To be a "Chuck" fan is to become a master of the Nielsen game, of knowing just what the variances in tiny ratings points mean to the beloved spy saga. And now that the ratings are in for the first two nights of the show's third season, it's safe to say that "Chuck" is not yet the smash hit it probably should be, but it's also probably bought itself a little breathing room, even if that breathing room exists mostly because NBC is, well, kind of having some issues at present. So, fellow "Chuck"-keteers, take heart. The show could be doing better, and your rampant "Chuck" evangelizing should continue, but it didn't come back to five viewers or anything like that either.

Among the 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are the ones NBC says it cares most about, "Chuck" scored a 3.0 rating for its first hour Sunday and a 2.9 for its second hour, with both hours pulling a 7 share, according to TV by the Numbers. (Briefly stated, the rating is the percentage of all TVs — or all TVs within the specific audience — in the United States tuned in to that given program. The share is the percentage of all TVs in use tuned in to that given program. This is an oversimplification, but it's close enough to give you an idea.) Sunday night's broadcasts averaged just under 7.5 million total viewers as well, marking the show's highest rating since its post-Super Bowl 3-D episode in February of last year.

The news got even better on Monday, even though the show was down slightly from the Sunday premiere. Up against stiff competition like the return of "House" and the 100th episode of "How I Met Your Mother," "Chuck" drew a 2.6 rating and a 7 share, with a total of 7.3 million viewers, again according to TV by the Numbers. It's the best the show has done in its regular time-slot since that 3-D episode, and it's a far sight better than "Heroes," whose performance NBC claimed to be pleased with at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session on Sunday. "Heroes" pulled only a 2.1 rating and 5 share for 4.71 million viewers. (And, to be fair, NBC's pleasure with its ratings regarded how it did at 8 p.m., not 9 p.m., when it aired last night. But the Monday "Chuck" number is still better than many "Heroes" 8 p.m. numbers were last fall.)

That's a lot of gobbledigook, I realize, a lot of numbers that might not make sense. But the bottom line is that "Chuck" is doing fairly well for itself, particularly on a network that doesn't have a whole lot else. And that means fans can start to let that sigh of relief out (while, of course, still planning those "Save 'Chuck'" campaigns, just in case).

Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Zachary Levi stars in "Chuck." Photo credit: NBC.

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