By Jordan Walker
A fall pilot episode premiering with only 3 million viewers on ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC would never survive to see a second week. But a show premiering with 3 million viewers on The CW— that’s a reason for the network’s execs to celebrate. And if two shows are capable of achieving that goal, all the better!
The Wednesday night cheerleader-drama “Hellcats” gathered strong numbers in the Nielsen ratings. ”Hellcats” ran after the network’s number one show, “America’s Next Top Model,” and became the first show in The CW’s four-year history to retain all of and build on “America’s Next Top Model’s” audience.
I must be honest – I thought “Hellcats” would flop, so I didn’t watch the original airing. Why would a show about cheerleaders appeal to me, a 19-year-old guy? But when I caught the repeat Friday night, I found it refreshing to see a show not about doctors, lawyers, or cops.
“Hellcats” examines the lives of college cheerleaders who face a whole lot more than nailing a back handspring. Alyson Michalka flips to stardom with her outstanding performances on and off the matt in the lead role of Marti, an outsider who runs into trouble paying for tuition and must compete for a cheerleading scholarship – her worst nightmare. On the other hand, Ashley Tisdale falls flat overacting as Savannah, the perfect, southern-Christian-belle cheerleading captain who goes from hating Marti to trying too hard to be her best friend in one short hour. This show centers around cheerleaders who have financial troubles and frenemy drama so compelling that it makes me want to come back for future episodes.
The big debut for the action drama “Nikita” provided another bright spot in The CW’s premiere week. The show, starring Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca as secret government assassins, was truly “TV to talk about.” The pilot delivered plenty of action, bikinis, and enough karate moves and fight scenes to make even Sylvester Stallone happy. Unlike “Hellcats,” critics expected “Nikita” to have a strong premiere based on its pilot, the network’s intense publicity of the show throughout summer, and its already captive audience in the golden timeslot behind The CW’s hit from last season, “The Vampire Dairies.”
3.5 million people watched Nikita kick ass in her first episode on Thursday, September 9. The show accumulated a slightly larger audience than “The Vampire Diaries” did an hour earlier in its season premiere. In the show’s second week, the audience fell just 6%, but still beat out “The Vampire Diaries’” audience, which lost 10% of its total viewers.
The CW rolled out its new fall shows two weeks before the competition, so the true test will come this week when “Hellcats” airs against ratings winners “Modern Family” and “Criminal Minds,” and “Nikita” runs against the season premieres of “Fringe,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The Office,” as well as Justin Bieber’s guest role on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” If “Hellcats” and “Nikita” can maintain their numbers from their first two weeks, these two dramas will become mainstays on The CW, giving network execs the chance to rest easy.