Wednesday ratings breakdown: All in the 'Family' ... or on CBS

the-defenders-320.jpgWinning the Emmy for best comedy didn't do much for "30 Rock's" ratings in recent years, but the award seemed to give "Modern Family" a nice boost in its second-season premiere.

The ABC comedy hit all-time highs in both viewers (12.7 million) and adults 18-49 (5.1 rating) Wednesday night (Sept. 22), scoring a definitive win in the demographic for the night. That's (part of) the good news for the network, but there's some bad news too: Its 10 p.m. drama "The Whole Truth" got off to a weak start.

Wednesday's other big winner was CBS, which led all three hours of primetime in total viewers and saw its new show "The Defenders" get off to a decent start. "Survivor: Nicaragua" (12.6 million viewers, 4.0 in 18-49), "Criminal Minds" (14.1 million, 4.0) and "The Defenders" (12.2 million, 2.9) gave the network a very consistent lineup.

Other notes from Wednesday night:

ABC: Like "Modern Family," the season premiere of "The Middle" (8.8 million viewers, 2.7 in adults 18-49) hit a series high in total viewers and recorded the show's second-best 18-49 rating ever. The debut of "Better With You" at 8:30 held nearly all of "The Middle's" audience, drawing 7.9 million viewers and a 2.5 in the demo. "Cougar Town" still dropped off from "Modern Family," but its 8.3 million viewers and 3.4 in the 18-49 demo were its best numbers since week two of last season.

The big downside for ABC was "The Whole Truth," which finished a distant third at 10 o'clock with just 4.85 million viewers and a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49.

NBC: "Law & Order: SVU's" two-hour premiere brought in 10.1 million people and a 3.2 rating in the 18-49 demo, both of which were up significantly from the one-hour season premiere in 2009. (The first hour by itself also improved on last year's numbers.) Somewhat more puzzling is the debut of "Undercovers," which did OK in total viewers -- 8.7 million, good for second place in the 8 p.m. hour -- but finished fourth in adults 18-49 with a 2.1. We (and most others) were expecting the J.J. Abrams-produced spy series to skew somewhat younger.

FOX: The two-hour season premiere of "Hell's Kitchen" was rock-steady, matching its summer debut in adults 18-49 (2.9) and gaining a little bit in total viewers (6.6 million vs. 6.2 million).

The CW:
Both "America's Next Top Model" and "Hellcats" lost a few viewers compared to last week, but they held steady among the network's target audiences of women 18-34 and adults 18-34. "Hellcats" actually improved a little in women 18-34 -- and The CW notes that the new show is doing the double the ratings of "The Beautiful Life" last season.

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Photo credit: CBS