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The River Premiere Was No Smash—or the 200th Episode of NCIS, Either

THE RIVER, BRUCE GREENWOOD, JOE ANDERSON, LESLIE HOPE, PAULINA GAITAN, DANIEL ZACAPA, ELOISE MUMFORD, JEFFREY GALFER, PAUL BLACKTHORNE, THOMAS KRETSCHMANN, SHAUN PARKES ABC/BOB D'AMICO

Sometimes you're lucky, and you premiere on a killer night for your Super Bowl-boosted network.

Sometimes you're unlucky, and you premiere on a night that's just a killer. 

A look at why The River was no Smash:

SAVE IT OR SINK IT? Vote now on The River

In its two-hour Tuesday debut, the polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it thriller scared up 7.5 million viewers and a 2.4 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds.

Not only aren't those numbers in the ballpark of Monday's Smash debut (11.5 million viewers, 3.8 demo rating), they're short of the openers of fellow fanboy-friendly series Alcatraz and Terra Nova, both of which topped the 3.0 rating mark among advertiser-coveted adults. 

The River-Smash comparison is, of course, unfair. Smash is a musical; The River's not. Smash was produced by Steven Spielberg; The River wasn't… Er, well, actually, it was.

More to the point, Smash aired after The Voice, which itself rode higher than ever thanks to its Super Bowl Sunday push; The River aired after Tim Allen's Last Man Standing, which did perfectly fine (7.9 million viewers, 2.4 demo rating), but was no The Voice—and certainly was no match for its 8 p.m. competition, the 200th episode of NCIS.

NCIS' 20.8 million viewers and 4.1 demo rating were both night-best numbers.

The River's own competition, especially 9-10 p.m., wasn't much softer. The new series got outdone in the cool-kids department by New Girl (3.5 demo rating), and outdrawn overall by NCIS: Los Angeles (16.1 million viewers).

The River did go on to win the 10 p.m. hour in the demo, but got beat in total viewers by Unforgettable (11.7 million viewers).

More troubling, as the series' suspense kept building, the show's audience kept shrinking, half-hour after half-hour.

As even Smash may learn, it's not easy to be a smash. 

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