The Winners and Losers of Fall TV 2018

Find out which shows are having a stellar time this season and which have hit a rough patch.

By Lauren Piester, Chris Harnick Oct 18, 2018 7:30 PMTags
TV Split, Sarah Paulson, Josh Dallas, Angela Bassett, Tim Allen, Emmy Rossum, Andrew LincolnFX; NBC; FOX; Showtime; AMC

The air is crisp, the leaves are changing, and the ratings are in. Fall TV is in full swing, with the big five networks—ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW and CBS—all having debuted the majority of their new and returning shows. Cable heavyweights like American Horror Story and The Walking Dead are back with new episodes and streaming services like Netflix are gearing up to introduce what could be some of the biggest shows yet. It's a good time in TV—for some. Especially witches. Lots and lots of witches.

But back to that "for some." Yes, the ominous "for some." For every winner this fall TV season, there's a loser. From a rash of exits to low ratings (ratings are down, like, way down, for a lot of shows), it hasn't been an easy fall for some shows and fandoms.

Below, check out the winners and losers of fall TV 2018.

WINNER: Manifest

Networks have been trying to nail down the "next Lost" since, well, Lost was on the air. It's never seemed to work…until now? NBC's Manifest, a drama about a plane full of people who go missing for more than five years, but for them they just experienced bad turbulence, debuted to big numbers. The series premiere, without delayed viewing factored in, had 10.4 million viewers and a 2.2 rating. Subsequent episodes have slipped, which is normal, but are still solid for today's broadcast standards. The ratings aren't the only highlight: Manifest is actually good, with a solid story and mystery driving interest. NBC handed out an order of three additional scripts, bringing the season one total to 16.

LOSER: The Walking Dead

As actors are jumping ship, so are the viewers. So far, the first two episodes of season nine have hit 6 and 4 million, series lows not seen since the low-rated first season. Gone are the days of 10 or 12 million viewers per episode—from just two seasons ago!—and gone is the time when Andrew Lincoln's impending departure would have felt like a very big deal. 

LOSER: Marvel's Iron Fist

After a terribly received first season, Iron Fist managed a much improved second season. Did you know there as a second season? Doesn't matter, it wasn't enough to save the show from being the Marvel TV universe's weakest link, and Netflix let it go. Maybe it can rest easy knowing it died when it actually had some fans to mourn its loss.

WINNER: The Good Place

Yes, the same-day ratings for The Good Place are pretty forkin' terrible. However, according to a study, it's one of the top streaming comedies. Plus, three seasons in it is STILL shocking us and continues to be one of the smartest and funniest shows on TV.

LOSER: Shameless Fans

Shameless is still one of Showtime's most-watched shows (and does well on Netflix), but now in its ninth season its undergoing some shakeups that are leaving fans devastated. First, Emmy Rossum announced she'd be leaving the show in a heartfelt letter. The date of her exit remains a mystery, but she has said it's likely not a goodbye for good. Roughly a month later, Cameron Monaghan announced he was leaving the show—the same week of his announcement—and also cautioned it was likely not a goodbye forever. Monaghan's character, Ian Gallagher, went to prison for his role in blowing up a van as part of protesting gay conversion therapy.

WINNER: Witches

Magic and witchcraft are back in a big way, from the spectacular return of the Coven witches on American Horror Story to the Charmed reboot to the upcoming Vampire Diaries/Originals spinoff Legacies and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (both of which have gotten fantastic early reviews). Badass women with magical powers taking down the patriarchy are particularly welcome this year, to the point where the witches have risen beyond their individual shows to share in a win for all of spooky womankind. We will take all of the witches TV has to offer us, please and thank you.

LOSER: Lethal Weapon

Fox's troubled action drama had a chance at a second life after the firing of Clayne Crawford for his behavior on set when they hired Sean William Scott in his place. But now, it appears that Damon Wayans plans to quit the show as well, as soon the current season's 15 episodes are finished. Ratings have been falling every week in the third season, so the show might not survive past this season anyway...unless Fox has another nostalgic actor replacement waiting in the wings.

WINNER: New Amsterdam

It's official once again: America loves its medical dramas. New Amsterdam was the first new show to get a full season pick-up after debuting to around 8.4 million viewers. That number has fallen a bit in the weeks since to around 6.3, but it's remained one of the most popular new shows of the season, and that likely won't change. But can Dr. Max Goodwin successfully change this country's healthcare system? We've got at least a full season to find out!

LOSER: Dancing With the Stars

We say it every year, but Dancing With Who? While this cast has actually been unusually good since the first episode (save for poor sweet non-dancer Grocery Store Joe), the season has failed to really take off. There's not a breakout star in sight. Ratings for the once-steady series have slipped to new lows. The premiere episode on Monday, Sept. 24 at a 1.0 rating and 7.7 million viewers. The second part on Tuesday, Sept. 25 had an even lower 0.9 rating and 6.6 million viewers. And if that's not enough, as of press time, Grocery Store Joe is still on the show and professional performer Tinashe is not, so something is definitely amiss here.

WINNER: Last Man Standing

Tim Allen's ABC comedy was always a solid performer for the network. It didn't necessarily generate headlines, but it had an audience. ABC canceled the series in 2017, and then along came Fox. Its sister studio, 20th Century Fox Television, produces the show and suddenly Last Man Standing was back—and it was a triumphant return. The first episode in September 2018 (the show ended on ABC in March 2017) had 8.1 million viewers and a 1.8 rating. Subsequent episodes dropped to around 6 million viewers an episode, but the 18-49 demo has remained around 1.4. This is better than most tent pole broadcast shows.

LOSER: Murphy Brown

The new Murphy Brown is not a ratings hit out of the gate—and there's a reason.

The series return had 7.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating on Thursday, Sept. 27. That's gone up with DVR viewers to 11.5 million viewers and a 1.8 rating, but nowhere near the success Roseanne and Will & Grace had when they returned. An easy explanation: Besides all broadcast ratings being down, Roseanne and Will & Grace had and still have longer lives in syndication. You'd be hard-pressed to find a rerun of Murphy Brown anywhere these days thanks to music licensing fees. The show's first season is the only one to come out on DVD.

WINNER: 9-1-1

9-1-1 season two opened big for Fox (thanks football), and naturally the numbers have fallen in the following episodes. However, the drama adds nearly double the total audience when DVR viewing is factored in and in same-day 18-49 ratings it's a strong performer. It's maintaining the viewership from season one.

LOSER: The Good Doctor

Remember how big a hit The Good Doctor was last year? My, how things change. Shaun Murphy isn't exactly on his last legs, but before DVR viewing is counted, the ABC medical drama is down to around 7 million viewers and a 1.1 rating. The average last year was more than 9 million viewers and a 1.7 rating. DVR viewing is still solid for the show, but with the buzz last year, these numbers should've been up.

???: The Conners

The Conners debuted lower than the Roseanne revival premiere, yes, but it was on par with the Roseanne revival finale with roughly 10.5 million viewers. So, yes, lower than its predecessor, but on par with how the show wrapped up. The true test will be how it does in future installments. The premiere was well-received by both critics and fans, but again, all eyes will be on how future outings do in the ratings.

For reference, check out the winners and losers of 2017 fall TV.