After the first week of the television season, Tim Allen has bragging rights over Candice Bergen.
The return of Allen’s sitcom, Last Man Standing, reached 8.1 million viewers on Fox last Friday night. That was more than the 7.5 million people who tuned into the revival of Bergen’s Murphy Brown on CBS the night before.
CBS heavily promoted the return of Murphy Brown after two decades, and Hillary Clinton had a cameo in the first episode. But the show’s first episode back couldn’t match the numbers reached by other recent revivals like Roseanne (18.4 million for its first episode back on ABC last March) and Will & Grace (10.2 million on NBC a year ago).
Last Man Standing had been gone just a year, cancelled by ABC in a decision that Allen said left him “stunned and blindsided.” But Fox brought it back, and on its first week it was the network’s most popular entertainment show, particularly impressive considering Friday is one of the least-watched nights on television.
ABC said its decision was strictly business after it decided against airing comedies on Friday, but there were political overtones. Allen supports President Donald Trump and his lead character, Mike Baxter, has been described as Archie Bunker with a college education. Some conservatives said the cancellation was proof that they weren’t valued as customers in liberal Hollywood.
The victory over Murphy Brown was “a very big upset,” said Marc Berman, a veteran television analyst who runs the Programming Insider.
Murphy Brown had the misfortune of competing against real-life politics, since the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh aired the day of its premiere, giving big boosts that evening to Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who together reached nearly 10 million viewers on their own, Nielsen said.
The traditional opening week of the fall season wasn’t bad” an average of 27 million people watched ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in prime time, Nielsen said, and that was up 3 per cent over the first week last year, when the four networks had 26.22 million. That was achieved despite a busy news week that helped the cable news networks. The 7.79 million people who watched either CNN, Fox News Channel or MSNBC were up 31 per cent from the same week a year earlier, Nielsen said.
“That’s a very good sign,” Berman said.