UPDATED with more numbers: The return of Fox’s Empire from its winter hiatus Wednesday took a tumble from its fall finale, drawing 4.4 million total viewers and a 1.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, the second-lowest numbers to date for the hip-hop drama.
It still was the night’s second highest-rated show in primetime behind CBS’ Survivor (1.5 rating, 7.57M viewers), which also topped the night in viewers.
It was the first episode back for Empire since star Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with lying about being the victim of an alleged attack in Chicago back in January. The return episode had been in the can for months, well before the alleged assault in the early-morning hours on January 29 and its aftermath.
Smollett was in court Thursday in Chicago and pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. His future on the series playing Jamal Lyon remains in question; Fox has not yet made a call on renewing it for Season 6.
Empire‘s numbers last night were the series’ lowest save for this past fall’s Halloween night episode, which saw a 1.2 rating and 4.2 million viewers. The fall finale episode December 5 did a 1.5 and 5.0 million viewers. Last season’s midseason return on March 28, 2018 notched a 2.0 rating and 6.2M sets of eyeballs.
Elsewhere in primetime Wednesday, Survivor was even in the demo and up a tick in viewers, leading in to the two-hour finale of The World’s Best (0.6, 3.72M), which saw a slight rise in audience for its season-ender but was flat in the demo.
ABC’s new Whiskey Cavalier (0.6, 3.73M) took a hit with no American Idol special s a lead-in this week, falling three-tenths at 10 PM where it was edged out by a Chicago PD repeat (NBC had an all-repeat lineup for the night). ABC’s comedy lineup was solid: the night’s second most-watched show The Goldbergs (1.1, 4.81M) was even, while Schooled (1.0, 3.94M), Modern Family (1.2, 4.60M) and Single Parents (0.8, 3.35M) grew by a tenth.
Fox’s also returned Star (1.1, 3.68M) from its winter break; it was down a tenth from its previous episode. That plus Empire did give the network’s the night’s overall demo win. CBS took viewers.
The CW’s Riverdale (0.3, 1.04M) and All American (0.2, 630,000), the later in its second-to-last episode of its freshman season, gained in viewers but were flat demo-wise.
Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.