When it comes to network television, pro football always reigns. But give props to NCIS, which head-butted Monday Night Football this season and came away basically unscathed.
NCIS was the most-watched scripted show on network TV for the 21-22 TV season. Even with a change to Monday night and even without Mark Harmon, NCIS ranked fifth for most viewers, averaging 11.01 million per episode. This included those viewers who watched the show on-demand or on a DVR.
Harmon, who played Leroy Jethro Gibbs for 18 seasons and four episodes into the 19th, was one of the most established actors on air this side of Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T on Law & Order: SVU. Still, NCIS managed to thrive in his absence by bringing in Gary Cole to play new boss Alden Parker.
NCIS Gave Up Its Top Spot to Yellowstone
But the NCIS dominance did get chipped. That’s because Kevin Costner and Yellowstone set TV on fire in 2021. The show averaged 11.31 million viewers an episode during season four. Granted, Taylor Sheridan and Yellowstone only did a 10-episode season, which ended in early January, for Paramount Network. NCIS, like other big network shows, needed to produce 21 episodes for the season. That can dilute the creativity.
The top two programs in the country were Sunday Night Football on NBC. It attracted an audience of 18.139 million per game. The Thursday night games on either Fox or the NFL Network drew an average of 15.397 million a game.
Yellowstone ranked third, followed by ESPN’s Monday Night Football with 11.233.
CBS Scripted Shows Dominate Top 10
CBS is well represented among the top 10, with NCIS at fifth, FBI at sixth with 10.354 million. Blue Bloods ranked eighth (9.782 million), followed by Equalizer at ninth (9.452 million) and 60 Minutes in 10th at 9.38 million. Of course, the networked picked up all these shows.
The NCIS franchise continues to do well. Rookie show NCIS: Hawai’i, which came on after the original on Monday nights, finished 17th overall. It’s viewers totaled 8.341. It ended the year as the most popular first-year drama. Ghosts, a comedy on CBS, was the No. 1 rookie show, ranking 16th with 8.41 million viewers. NCIS: Hawai’i held off FBI: International for top first-year drama. The FBI newbie, which is based in Hungary, drew 8.312.
NCIS: Los Angeles finished 27th in the ratings with an average of 7.345 million. CBS extended it to a 14th year and moved it back an hour in the Sunday lineup. It goes up against Sunday Night Football for half the TV season.
And the ratings also represented another Hollywood fact. Dick Wolf, and all his procedurals, still are way popular with audiences on CBS and NBC.
Wolf Entertainment produces FBI, FBI: International and FBI: Most Wanted. And FBI: Most Wanted, even with a lead character change, still managed nearly 9 million viewers. Julian McMahon left the show in March. In stepped Dylan McDermott, fresh off his story arc on Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Wolf Entertainment also produces the Wednesday night “One Chicago” shows. For those curious, Chicago Fire (9.9 million) is the most popular, followed by Chicago P.D. (9.256 million) and Chicago Med (9.2 million).
Wolf’s Law & Order shows don’t pull the same numbers. But the series hold up well on Thursday nights. The Law & Order revival drew 6.078 million fans. Law & Order: SVU was the most popular at 6.8 million. Meanwhile, Organized Crime finished with an average of 5.55 million.
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