Year-end TV ratings: nine of the top 20 shows are reality TV

The 2009-2010 television season is over, and the final ratings show that reality shows both lead the pack and bring up the rear end. Among younger viewers, nine of the top 20 shows were reality TV, while among total viewers, just seven made it into the top 20.

American Idol led, as usual, in both categories, but CBS’ new series Undercover Boss was the second-most popular reality show among young viewers, and third among all viewers. In the 18-49 group, Survivor Heroes vs. Villains did better than the Samoa season, but both were in the top 15.

Deadline Hollywood has compiled a list of the year-end ratings, and I’ve filtered out all of the annoying scripted shows so we can see how reality TV held up. Actually, I find it tragic that something like Hell’s Kitchen or The Bachelor did better than Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, or Lie to Me.

First, here are the ratings among adults ages 18 to 49, the best indicator of success since that’s what advertisers care about:

1 AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY FOX 9.1/24
2 AMERICAN IDOL-WEDNESDAY FOX 8.4/22
4 UNDERCOVER BOSS CBS 6.2/15
11 SURVIVOR: HEROES-VILLAINS CBS 4.5/13
13 DANCING WITH THE STARS ABC 4.4/11
13 THE BACHELOR ABC 4.4/10
15 SURVIVOR: SAMOA CBS 4.3/12
17 THE BIGGEST LOSER 8 NBC 4.2/11
18 HELL’S KITCHEN FOX 4.0/11
24 THE BIGGEST LOSER 9 NBC 3.8/10
25 THE AMAZING RACE 15 CBS 3.7/9
28 THE AMAZING RACE 16 CBS 3.5/9
39 DANCING W/STARS RESULTS ABC 3.2/8
40 THE APPRENTICE 9 NBC 3.1/8
50 SO YOU THINK CAN DANCE-WED FOX 2.8/8
50 SO YOU THINK CAN DANCE-TUE FOX 2.8/7
50 THE MARRIAGE REF NBC 2.8/8
56 EXTREME MAKEOVER:HOME EDITION ABC 2.7/7
69 JAMIE OLIVER’S FOOD REVOLUTION ABC 2.0/6
82 AMERICA’S TOP MODEL 7 CW 1.8/5
82 FIND MY FAMILY ABC 1.8/4
88 AMERICA’S TOP MODEL-8 CW 1.7/5
88 KITCHEN NIGHTMARES FOX 1.7/5
88 SHARK TANK ABC 1.7/5
95 WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE NBC 1.6/6
102 SUPERNANNY ABC 1.4/4
108 WIFE SWAP ABC 1.3/5
122 FLY GIRLS CW 0.5/1
124 HIGH SOCIETY CW 0.4/1

And here’s the list ranked by total number of viewers (add a ,000 to the end to get the average number of viewers in millions):

1 AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY FOX 24,714
2 AMERICAN IDOL-WEDNESDAY FOX 23,461
3 DANCING WITH THE STARS ABC 19,725
6 UNDERCOVER BOSS CBS 17,732
10 DANCING WITH THE STARS RESULTS ABC 15,298
14 SURVIVOR: HEROES-VILLAINS CBS 13,669
17 SURVIVOR: SAMOA CBS 13,450
23 THE BACHELOR ABC 12,227
24 THE AMAZING RACE 15 CBS 11,912
26 THE AMAZING RACE 16 CBS 11,186
30 THE BIGGEST LOSER 8 NBC 10,412
37 THE BIGGEST LOSER 9 NBC 9,415
39 EXTREME MAKEOVER:HOME EDITION ABC 9,112
47 HELL’S KITCHEN FOX 8,416
50 THE APPRENTICE 9 NBC 8,075
59 SO YOU THINK CN DANCE-WED FOX 7,250
65 SO YOU THINK CN DANCE-TUE FOX 6,892
72 THE MARRIAGE REF NBC 6,658
74 FIND MY FAMILY ABC 6,635
77 WHO DO YOU THING YOU ARE NBC 6,465
90 JAMIE OLIVER’s FOOD REVOLUTION ABC 5,507
95 SHARK TANK ABC 5,099
101 SUPERNANNY ABC 4,830
106 KITCHEN NIGHTMARES FOX 4,005
109 AMERICA’S TOP MODEL 7 CW 3,806
110 AMERICA’S TOP MODEL-8 CW 3,703
123 FLY GIRLS CW 1,056
124 HIGH SOCIETY CW 917

Full Series Rankings For The 2009-10 Broadcast Season [Deadline Hollywood]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.