Let’s take a look at the total viewership for the 10 most popular scripted broadcast shows from the 2021-2022 season, which began in September of last year and ended this May.
1. NCIS, CBS — 10.97 million
2. FBI, CBS — 10.35 million
3. Chicago Fire, NBC — 9.92 million
4. Blue Bloods, CBS — 9.60 million
5. The Equalizer, CBS — 9.30 million
6. Chicago PD, NBC — 9.25 million
7. Young Sheldon, CBS — 9.22 million
8. Chicago Med, NBC — 9.20 million
9. FBI: Most Wanted, CBS — 8.85 million
10. Ghosts, CBS — 8.41 million
What pops out immediately, besides the days of Seinfeld-level ratings being gone? It could be a few things: that CBS still reigns supreme among the Big Four networks; that none of these shows are what you would call “social media popular” (unless you only follow your grandparents); that everyone needs to cool it on acronyms, etc.
For me, it’s that, with the exception of Ghosts and Young Sheldon, every show is about firefighters (Chicago Fire), doctors (Chicago Med), or cops / special agents (NCIS, FBI, Blue Bloods, Chicago PD, FBI: Most Wanted, The Equalizer — Queen Latifah’s character is a former CIA operative, so it counts). If you extend the top 10 into a top 20, it’s more of the same, with FBI: International at #11, NCIS: Hawai’i at #12, NCIS: Los Angeles at #16 (don’t worry, there are more NCIS spinoffs in the works), Magnum P.I. at #17, 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star at #18 and #19, and The Good Doctor at #20.
That’s 15 out of 20 shows about firefighters, doctors, or cops/agents! If CBS makes a show about a CIA agent who is also a doctor with the name of a city or state in the title, it will be the most popular show of all-time. If the main character’s first name is Sheldon and he has a mustache, even better.
In case you were wondering, the lowest-rated show of the season based on Variety looking at Nielsen data is Welcome to Flatch (1.07 million), followed by The Great North, Bob’s Burgers, and Grand Crew. In other words, good shows.