TV shows are earning fewer viewers than ever these days. It’s a function of the number of shows, and the number of options for watching them. Still, there are some bright spots, like NBC’s This Is Us, which delivered incredible and slightly shocking ratings for Tuesday night’s third episode, per EW.
The show earned 9.8 million viewers and a 2.8 in the crucial 18-49 demographic, while The Voice, which aired before This Is Us, earned more viewers with 10.6 million, but only a 2.5 in 18-49, which means that This Is Us actually improved upon The Voice’s rating in that demographic.
That makes the show the first scripted series ever to build on a lead-in from The Voice. The reality music competition show typically has a large audience, and the best shows following it can hope to do is retain that audience.
There was also a disruption in the show’s airing schedule. Last Tuesday was the vice presidential debate, which NBC aired instead of This Is Us—when the show returned this week, it aired in an earlier time slot. Usually, this kind of disruption to the schedule would cause a show to lose viewers, but This Is Us didn’t succumb to that trend, retaining the viewers it garnered for its first episode.
These ratings also match the premiere of This Is Us, which suggests that the show may not be losing viewers the way most scripted series do following their debuts. This Is Us is the first NBC drama to match its premiere in its third week since Friday Night Lights.
That comparison is actually a remarkably fitting one. Like Friday Night Lights, This Is Us is a simple, intimate drama that could easily have disappeared from the air. There are no explosions or cases to solve, nothing to keep audiences hooked from week to week. The show’s strong ratings suggest that viewers can be interested in shows that are about something more than murder.