A Nick Fury cameo, anticipation for Thor: The Dark World, and the world-conquering success of The Avengers can’t disguise the simple facts about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: It’s still a Joss Whedon show (Joss Whedon adjacent, at least), and by Nielsens’ Law of Transitive Ratings, it must therefore receive poor to middling ratings. Sure, 8.4 million total viewers and a 3.1 rating in the key demographic is nothing to sneeze at—for those kinds of numbers, Dads would… well, do something more demeaning than what Dads is already doing—but that rating among adults under 50 does represent a 34 percent drop from the show’s premiere. Of course, that number could always grow with the help of DVR, video-on-demand, and online viewings—five days after its debut, ABC estimated that 22.1 million people had watched the show’s premiere, which gives it a larger turnout than last night’s live audience for NCIS (even as it makes that 8.4 million tally seem even weaker by comparison). The evidence is conclusive: This is indeed a Whedon show, albeit one with expensive ties to a lucrative media franchise that won’t allow for much wiggle room in the event Agents ever sinks to Dollhouse or Firefly levels. (Shows that were still pulling numbers that would make Dads jealous at this early point in their runs.)
Also, neither of those shows were ever the anchors for entire nights of programming, so when Agents fails to offer much competition to NCIS or The Voice, the rest of ABC’s Tuesday night suffers. Lucky 7 in particular continues to look as though it’s going to fall victim to a separate TV chestnut: Never test the TV gods’ sense of irony by putting “luck” or “lucky” in your title. (See also: Luck, Lucky, Lucky Louie.) The drama failed to attract even 1 percent of the key demographic during the 10 p.m. hour, receiving an 0.8 18-49 rating. (The only other broadcast to dip below a 1 in the demo: The CW’s presentation of the iHeartRadio Music Festival.) So while Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ratings drop is just part of its creative lineage, at least it seems to have passed another hereditary defect of Whedon shows—early cancellation—to Lucky 7.
For more detailed numbers, visit TV By The Numbers.