After years of anticipation and speculation, Marvel finally put its money where its mouth is this past summer: The comic giant’s film arm bumped the release date of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man up to July 31, 2015. Though, looking at the incredible-shrinking-ratings effect another eagerly awaited Marvel property had on ABC last night, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Henry Pym’s big debut had been moved up yet again.
In its debut broadcast, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. held its own in a battle against two Tuesday-night juggernauts—though as the movie from which the series was spun-off attests, such fights are not won without attendant collateral damage. So as Joss Whedon, Clark Gregg, and company stand proud among an estimated 11.9 million viewers, their pilot’s 18-49 Nielsen rating represented by the 4.6 emblazoned on their chest, the ruins of Lucky 7 are scattered around them. For while Agents’ strong showing was enough for ABC to win a tough 8 p.m. hour—and then give a lift to The Goldbergs, which used its supersonic screaming powers to retain enough of its lead-in for a 3.2 in the demo and 9.1 million total viewers—the network faltered through the rest of the night. Promising comedy Trophy Wife was sampled by 6.6 million curious onlookers to the score of a 2.3 18-49 rating, but the time Lucky 7 kicked off, only 4.6 million viewers were still tuned in to ABC. Preliminary reports put its rating among adults under 50 at 1.3, the same chunk of that demographic that was pulled in by Lone Star in the fall of 2010—and we all know how well that turned out. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have just pushed to the front of the race for the season’s biggest debut—but at what cost? AT WHAT COST?
Then again, with 8 p.m on Tuesdays pitched as a scrum between Agents, The Voice (with a 4.6 18-49 rating and 14.14 million viewers spread across its two hours), and NCIS (3.4 18-49/19.47 million viewers), this is really just the story of massive franchises taking tiny chunks out of one another. Chunks that then fall off and squash other, smaller programs—some deserving (Dads, down to a 1.5 ratings and 3.65 million viewers in its second week), some not. So it goes when the gods come to live among the humans, their impressive bankrolls and deep benches of talent tromping around while we learn to plot our lives around their destructive movements and long-term release schedules. Remember: To have an Ant-Man, you may have to sacrifice a Brooklyn Nine-Nine (1.8 18-49/4 million viewers).
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