But they weren't quite this low.
The series premiere of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" was seen by 4.7 million viewers Friday night and garnered a 2.0 preliminary adults 18-49 rating and 6 share. It was beaten in the 9 p.m. hour by ABC's "Supernanny" (6.1 million viewers, 2.2/7) and is the lowest-rated scripted series premiere on a major broadcast network this season aside from NBC's now-defunct "Crusoe."
"Dollhouse" was paired with the midseason return of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (3.7 million, 1.3/5), which was shifted from its previous Monday post. "Terminator" came in third place in the hour and hit a series low (by like 27%). "Terminator" beat NBC's "Howie Do It" (3.9 million, 1.2/4), but not by much. Both "Ghost Whisperer" (10.3 million, 2.4/8) and "Wife Swap" (4.3 million, 1.5/5) did better.
The performances represent a disappointing debut for what was, on paper, a good idea: creating a male-skewing sci-fi block to go against CBS' night-topping female-skewing crime shows. Fox didn't expect to win against CBS, but had some hope of coming out ahead of ABC's reality shows. But "Terminator" was sinking in the ratings earlier this season and "Dollhouse" has suffered from negative buzz and creative trouble for months. Critics, overall, seemed disappointed with Whedon's latest effort.
Fox had a third-place finish for the evening despite airing full-budgeted dramas. "Dollhouse" fared OK against two of its competitors, with CBS' Canadian import "Flashpoint" (8.9 million, 1.9/6) and NBC's ailing "Friday Night Lights" (3.5 million, 1.1/3) pulling lower numbers. It also did better than last year's short-lived "Canterbury's Law" in the slot.
At 10 p.m., an episode of ABC's "20/20" (10.9 million, 3.4/11) about the impoverished hill people of the Appalachian Mountains drew the newsmagazine's largest Friday audience in more than four years (ABC, in fact, won the night over CBS, which is rare). Yes, there was a whole morbid curiosity "real-life 'Deliverance'" aspect to its popularity. But give ABC and Diane Sawyer credit for convincing so many people to watch a report on poverty. Usually a newsmagazine needs an octuplet mom to pull off those kind of numbers.