Ratings: Can Southland save NBC?

Serial killers, Los Angeles police officers, and low-level city officials made important debuts last night, as CBS and NBC rolled out three shows that have been getting heavy buzz. In the end, it looks like cops may be coming to NBC's rescue.

Southland, a new gritty crop drama from the producers of ER, made the biggest splash last night, propelling NBC to a rare victory for the evening. The show's premiere pulled in a 3.2 rating and 9 share in the 18-49 demographic, and averaged 9.72 million viewers--good numbers for the struggling NBC. The numbers actually got better as the show headed into its second half-hour, meaning viewers probably liked what they saw and were sticking around, a great sign for a show's debut.

Airing in the same time period was CBS' murder mystery Harper's Island, which managed a 2.7/8 in the adult demo, and averaged 10.49 million viewers (consistent with CBS' tendency to attract more viewers overall, but not from target age groups). It looks as though viewers may have actually left Harper's Island for Southland, as Harper's lost viewers as the show progressed.

There's a lot at stake for CBS with Harper's Island. The network is looking at the slasher-thriller to draw in younger audiences with its sexy cast and horror-movie tone. But low ratings from TV.com users don't give this show a good outlook.

Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler's new comedy from the producers of The Office, did fairly solid for normal networks/good for NBC at 8:30 p.m, with a 3.9/11 and 6.77 million viewers. But given that it was sandwiched between two episodes of The Office that both outperformed it considerably (the 9 p.m. Office almost beat it by a whole ratings point), NBC has to be a little concerned.

Of the three premieres, the only one I saw part of was Parks and Recreation, and it didn't really grab me--it seems like a lesser version of the weaker episodes of The Office. Harper's Island is waiting on my DVR, and I'll check out Southland online later today.

What were your thoughts on the big premieres last night?

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