The 10 Most-Watched and 10 Least-Watched Broadcast TV Shows of the 2021-22 Season

Despite what you may have heard, linear television ain’t dead yet — and we’ve got 10 broadcast shows that proved it over the course of the concluding September-to-May television season. Then again, we’ve also got 10 that definitely suggest the opposite.

Once again, CBS juggernaut “NCIS” was the most-watched show on broadcast (when including all viewers two years of age and older, with one week of delayed-viewing counted), according to Nielsen statistics. (“NCIS” used to be the top show on all of linear television; that is, until Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” moseyed into these here parts.) The CBS procedural has been the best on broadcast for four years running and 12 of the last 13 seasons (NBC’s “This Is Us” triumphed in 2017-18). CBS’ “FBI” was the only other entertainment program on broadcast television to average north of 10 million viewers per episode this season.

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For the purposes of this story, we omitted sports and news programming; otherwise the majority of the top 10 list would be football. The only potential news-programming victim here is “60 Minutes,” the long-running CBS newsmagazine series that can really go either way in terms of genre. We’re not giving CBS the short end of the stick, though: The most-watched broadcast channel occupies 70 percent of our top 10, and was the only network of the so-called Big 4 (CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC) that didn’t have any shows in the bottom 10.

One final curation caveat. We declined to include The CW in this story. If we had, the least-watched list would have read like the young- and digital-skewing (those two go hand in hand) broadcaster’s primetime lineup card. That wouldn’t be any fun, or any fair (to them, at least; Fox surely wouldn’t have minded).

Focusing on total viewers is good in some ways and less-good in others. It disproportionately rewards channels and shows that cater to older viewers (read: CBS and procedurals). Perfectly, the only three non-CBS series in the top 10 this season were Dick Wolf’s three “Chicago” shows on NBC. Crossing nets, Wolf the super-producer accounts for half of the series on this list: the entirety of that “Chicago” universe and the two qualifying “FBI” series.

Find the top 10 below, of which eight series are dramas and two are comedies. One, CBS’ “Ghosts,” is a freshman show. As you might imagine, each of these 10 shows have been renewed.

Most-Watched Broadcast Series, 2021-22 Season

1. “NCIS” (CBS): 10.974 million viewers
2. “FBI” (CBS): 10.354 million viewers
3. “Chicago Fire” (NBC): 9.917 million viewers
4. “Blue Bloods” (CBS): 9.608 million viewers
5. “The Equalizer” (CBS): 9.301 million viewers
6. “Chicago PD” (NBC): 9.254 million viewers
7. “Young Sheldon” (CBS): 9.222 million viewers
8. “Chicago Med” (NBC): 9.203 million viewers
9. “FBI: Most Wanted” (CBS): 8.846 million viewers
10. “Ghosts” (CBS): 8.409 million viewers

Queen Latifah stars on CBS series “The Equalizer.” - Credit: Michael Greenberg/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Queen Latifah stars on CBS series “The Equalizer.” – Credit: Michael Greenberg/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Greenberg/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While NBC executives will be glad to see “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD,” and “Chicago Med” on our list, they may not be thrilled with us calling September to May the “TV season” in 2022. Traditionally, Nielsen separated out the summer — and still does, in many ways — as the warm-weather months were nothing but reruns.

These days, networks program a mix of originals and repeats. No one does that better than NBC, which prefers a September-to-September approach to season-long measurement. It is possible that a good performance from the summer’s regular top show, “America’s Got Talent,” would kick “Ghosts” off this list (and potentially even move a few other series down). “AGT” averaged 8.7 million viewers on Tuesdays last summer, 9.0 million in Summer 2020, and 11.9 million in the summer before the Covid pandemic stole much of the performance-competition series’ magic.

We know what you’re really here for though. Without much further adieu, below are the least-watched broadcast series of the season. To avoid weird one-offs, we only included shows that aired a minimum of two episodes in the considered time slot.

Least-Watched Broadcast Series, 2021-22 Season

10. “Queens” (ABC): 1.855 million viewers
9. “Pivoting” (Fox): 1.848 million viewers
8. “Grand Crew” (NBC): 1.810 million viewers
7. “Kenan — 8:30” (8:30, NBC): 1.725 million viewers
6. “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox): 1.606 million viewers
5. “Home Sweet Home” (NBC): 1.461 million viewers
4. “The Great North” (Fox): 1.337 million viewers
3. “Welcome to Flatch” (Fox): 1.068 million viewers
2. “The Courtship” (NBC): 919,000 viewers
1. “Duncanville” (Fox): 536,000 viewers

“The Courtship” - Credit: Sean Gleason/USA Network

“The Courtship” – Credit: Sean Gleason/USA Network

Sean Gleason/USA Network

As you can see, half of the bottom 10 shows aired on Fox. Three of them are animated series, which skew young and toward viewing on digital platforms — not all of which are measured by Nielsen (and even less of which happens within seven days of an episode’s linear premiere). For example, according to Fox’s own internal data, the average “Bob’s Burgers” episode hits nearly 7 million viewers when counting all platforms and all days following a premiere, to-date. Either way, don’t feel too badly for “Duncanville,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and “The Great North” — they’ve all actually been renewed by Fox. At the time of this writing, the fates of “Pivoting” and “Flatch” were still TBD.

There is an argument to be made that “Kenan” is getting unfair placement here: the five episodes that aired at 8:30 p.m. performed poorly enough to make our list, but the lion’s share of Season 2 episodes in the show’s normal 8 o’clock time slot did not. Anyway, that series got cancelled, as did fellow bottom-10 series, unscripted NBC shows “Home Sweet Home” and “The Courtship.” (Actually, both of those were not just cancelled — they were unceremoniously yanked from NBC’s schedule early.)

Our bottom two shows, Fox’s “Duncanville” and NBC’s “Bridgerton”-inspired dating series didn’t even attract one million viewers per episode.

Despite its own struggle to find an audience, NBC’s “Grand Crew,” was renewed for a second try; ABC’s “Queens” was not. But we’ll always have this certified “Queens” banger, courtesy of Swizz Beatz (and yas, the queens):

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