Geek Appeal – How The Nerd Kings Slew the Ratings Juggernaut

For years, the program everyone was trying to beat was American Idol.

American Idol Title CardIt didn’t matter what was thrown up against the ratings juggernaut, be it dramas, sitcoms or other reality shows, they would inevitably be trounced. Nothing could hold a candle to the Idol formula which included teenagers crooning their hearts out, Ryan Seacrest, biting (or in Paula’s case unintelligible) commentary from the judges, and the suspense of the reveal of who would be going home. Other networks feared the show, often rearranging their schedules to minimize viewing losses. Whether it was to mock the singers or listen to Simon Cowell dishing out the hard truth, viewers were flocking to Fox at least twice a week (once for the performers, once for the reveal, though in recent years Idol extended it to three nights) in grand numbers. American Idol was the most watched show on television for six years in a row.

Until now.

There is a new king in town and it is four geeks and a girl.

That’s right. The Big Bang Theory has been slaying Idol in the ratings for weeks now in both overall numbers and in that coveted 18-49 age demographic.

Okay, so the shine of American Idol is wearing off. It’s in its 11th season and the original judges have all but fled (except for Randy, but honestly, he was always that ‘other’ judge compared to Paula and Simon). There are also a host of new talent shows like The Voice and X Factor and America’s Got Talent that Idol has to compete with.

So why is it news that the cool kids on the block are no longer #1?

It’s not so much that Idol has been consistently beaten in the ratings for the past few weeks but the fact of who has done it.


Big Bang Theory Cast

Raj, Leonard, Penny, Sheldon and Howard

The Big Bang Theory is now entering its 5th season and is the highest rated comedy on television (beating out 8 year champ Two and a Half Men) and the viewing numbers are steadily rising. It’s won a People’s Choice Award, been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes and Jim Parsons has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Even though The Big Bang Theory has had its successes, no one ever expected it to top Idol in the ratings. Yet, it has, and not just once, but consistently.

That’s impressive, especially for a show that floundered out of the gate. The original pilot featured the great duo of Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons as Leonard and Sheldon but alongside two very unlikeable female characters. The pilot was not picked up which usually means death for a show. However, creators, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, were given a second chance and retooled the script, adding the characters of Penny, Howard and Raj.

It has been Nerdvana ever since.

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