Ratings for the premiere of "What About Brian" were good Sunday, but they weren't great. So we're picturing the mood at ABC to be one that invokes another Brian: Always look on the bright side of life.
That refrain closes Monty Python's "Life of Brian," and it's probably the way the network is choosing to look at the show's debut performance. First, then, the good news:
"What About Brian," about the last single guy (Barry Watson) in a group of 30-something friends, averaged 12.84 million viewers in its maiden voyage Sunday night. It also scored a healthy 5.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic that advertisers love so dearly, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings (final numbers will be released Tuesday).
Both numbers were enough to win its 10 p.m. ET time period, by a slim margin in total viewers (over NBC's "Crossing Jordan," 12.46 million) and by quite a bit among adults 18-49 ("Jordan" again, which drew a 3.7). It retained almost three-fourths of the 18-49 rating from lead-in "Desperate Housewives," which scored a 7.7 in the demographic.
"Brian's" premiere audience is on par with that of "Boston Legal," which drew just over 13 million viewers in the 10 p.m. Sunday spot in fall 2004. "Grey's Anatomy," which occupies that slot now, debuted to 16.2 million viewers a little over a year ago.
Now, the bad news: "What About Brian" fell well short of a typical "Grey's Anatomy" episode this season. So far in 2005-06, the medical drama is averaging 19.8 million viewers and an 8.8 rating among adults 18-49.
Additionally, "Brian" moves to 10 p.m. Mondays starting tonight, where it will have a smaller lead-in ("Supernanny") and fairly tough competition in CBS' "CSI: Miami" and NBC's "Medium."
If, say, three-fourths of its premiere audience follows "Brian" to its regular time period, ABC would probably be fairly happy. "The Bachelor: Paris" averaged 9.33 million viewers in the time period earlier in the year, and in recent weeks "Miracle Workers" has drawn 8.24 million people.
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Sarah Lancaster and Barry Watson on 'What About Brian' (April 13, 2006)