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Ratings roundup: ABC's 'Modern Family' shines but 'Whole Truth' is ugly

September 23, 2010 |  1:03 pm


ABC's "Modern Family" may not have to worry about a sophomore slump.

The single-camera sitcom, which last month took home the Emmy for best comedy, got off to a strong start Wednesday night, hitting new highs in viewers and key demographics. Alas, the solid performance of "Modern Family" wasn't enough to help the shows that follow it; the second-year comedy "Cougar Town" premiered to disappointing numbers as even a special appearance by Jennifer Aniston wasn't enough to juice the ratings.

At 10 p.m., "The Whole Truth," a new legal drama starring Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow as a prosecutor and defense attorney, was thrown out of court.

According to Nielsen, 12.6 million people tuned in for "Modern Family." But only 8.3 million stuck around for "Cougar Town" and just 4.9 million made it all the way through "The Whole Truth."

ABC could breathe a little sigh of relief that its other new Wednesday show, the 8:30 p.m. romantic comedy "Better With You," retained much of its lead-in from "The Middle."  About 8 million watched "Better With You," a 9% drop from the 8 p.m. show,  which in television land is not considered a disaster.

NBC's new spy show "Undercovers" from J.J. Abrams ("Lost") did not break out in its 8 p.m. debut. Launching new shows at 8 p.m., which is the first hour of prime time, is a daunting task. While "Undercovers" finished third in viewers with 8.6 million, NBC can find some encouragement;  the number of adults 18-49 went up slightly in the show's second half-hour, and  the audience was bigger than "Mercy," a since-canceled hospital drama, got in that  time slot in its premiere a year ago.

CBS was the big winner for the night, taking first place in both viewers and adults 18-49. Its only new show for the night, the 10 p.m. drama "The Defenders," starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell as a couple of shady Las Vegas lawyers, was the highest-rated new show for the night, with 12.1 million viewers. But  its appeal was to older viewers; the show did not do as well in the 18-49 demographic as "CSI: New York," which was in that time slot last year. With Jay Leno now back in late night and out of prime time, the 10 p.m. hour has become more competitive, which ABC learned the hard way with "The Whole Truth."

Of the returning shows, CBS' "Survivor" was tops, averaging 12.5 million viewers. NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" also showed it still has life, improving in both viewers and key demographics from last year's season premiere.

Fox went with a two-hour premiere of its reality cooking show "Hell's Kitchen" and finished fourth overall in viewers and second in adults 18-49.

-- Joe Flint

For the record: This post has been corrected to reflect that Fox finished second in adults 18-49 for the night.