Personal expectations will undoubtedly have some impact on how one perceives the premiere rating for ABC’s “GCB,” but it is highly unlikely any will enable the show to be called a mega-hit.

Update: At a 2.2 adults 18-49 rating with 7.6 million viewers (out of a 2.5 with 8.2 million for “Desperate Housewives”), “GCB” was an underperformer Sunday night.

While the ambiguity of the overnight ratings makes postponing conclusive judgment until the demo numbers come out the right strategy, they do indicate that ABC’s new primetime soap will not do for television what “Desperate Housewives” did many years ago.

According to TV Media Insights, the show opened with a 6.0 overnight metered market rating, down only slightly from the 6.2 for the “Desperate Housewives” lead-in. Odds are strong that the adults 18-49 demo landed somewhere in the 2s.

The retention is impressive and a sign that “GCB” did attract the existing “Desperate Housewives” audience, but as that audience is significantly smaller than it once was, it is not necessarily the case that the show’s actual rating was very good. It, in fact, came in only slightly higher than what the now-ended “Brothers & Sisters” did in the timeslot.

Obviously, the landscape for dramas has changed on ABC, and it is possible the network will not be disappointed by the final rating–it might even be quite satisfied. But if this was viewed as a passing of the torch from the soon-departing “Housewives” and the new “GCB,” the torch being passed was from a series that had long fatigued its audience and lost its mainstream appeal; not that of a game-changer that not only drove ABC to new heights on its own but also fueled a mega-hit in “Grey’s Anatomy.”

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