ABC's 'Designated Survivor' Distinguishes Itself in Debut

by Paige Albiniak  |  09.22.2016

Three new shows debuted on Wednesday night — ABC’s Designated Survivor and Speechless and Fox’s Lethal Weapon — and of the three, Designated Survivor opened to the best numbers.

The drama, starring Kiefer Sutherland as the only surviving member of the U.S. Cabinet after a terrorist attack hits the U.S. Capitol during a State of the Union speech, scored a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49 and 10 million total viewers, according to Nielsen’s overnight ratings. That’s a solid start for the 10 p.m. drama, although it falls short of NBC’s Tuesday night premiere of This Is Us, which so far it fall TV’s highest-rated premiere with a 2.8 in the demo and 10 million total viewers.

RELATED: NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ Lives Up to Promise of Its Trailer

ABC also premiered Speechless, a sitcom starring Minnie Driver, at 8: 30 p.m. following the night’s lead-off show, The Goldbergs. Speechless premiered to a 2.0 in the demo and 7.3 million viewers, in line with how the rest of the network’s 8 to 10 p.m. sitcoms did. At 8 p.m., The Goldbergs returned with a similar 2.0 in the demo and 6.8 million viewers. At 9 p.m., Modern Family turned in a 2.6, down 19% from last year, and 8.2 million viewers, down 14%. Like CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, this-once potent broadcast hit is finally showing its age as it heads into season 8.

RELATED: CBS’ ‘Kevin Can Wait,’ NBC’s ‘The Good Place’ Both Start in Good Places 

Over on Fox, movie reboot Lethal Weapon led into Empire, giving Fox the win after two low rated nights. Lethal Weapon premiered to a 2.2 in the demo and 7.8 million viewers, down 8% in the demo but up 4% in total viewers from last season’s premiere of Rosewood, starring Morris Chestnut. 

RELATED: 3D Car Crashes Through Times Square High-Rise in ‘Lethal Weapon’ Installation

Broadcast TV’s biggest hit, Empire, returned for season 3 with a 4.1 in the demo and 10.8 million total viewers. That was down 39% from last year’s fall premiere, when the show was coming off its supernova first season, but about even with its spring finale. When live-plus-seven numbers are taken into consideration, Empire last season averaged a 6.4 among adults 18-49 and 17.7 million viewers.

RELATED: HOT SPOT: Ntropic Designs Interactive Times Square Billboard for Fox’s ‘Empire’

CBS aired reality standbys Survivor and Big Brother, wrapping up its summer season before moving to CBS All Access for a fall edition. Survivor fell 8% from last fall’s premiere to a 2.3 in the demo and 3% in total viewers to 9.4 million, while Big Brother closed out its season with a 2.1 in the demo and 6.3 million viewers.

After winning the new season’s first two nights on the strength of The Voice and strong debut of This Is Us, NBC came in fourth on Wednesday night. 

The season premiere of Blindspot, one of last season’s highest-rated premieres, debuted in its new 8 p.m. time slot at a 1.3 among adults 18-49 and 6 million viewers, even in the demo with its spring finale. Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m. averaged a 1.8 in the demo and 7.7 million viewers, and Chicago PD at 10 p.m. hit a 1.6 in adults 18-49 and 6.7 million.

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