Happy New Year to Fox — sort of. The early part of the first week of 2022 was quite friendly to the Fox broadcast network. On Sunday, Jan. 2, the network’s latest cooking competition from Gordon Ramsay, “Next Level Chef,” enjoyed the best debut (a 1.6 Live + Same Day rating among adults 18-49) of any new broadcast series thus far this season. (The claim held when adding three days of delayed viewing and the show rose to a 1.7 rating. The No. 2 debut, NBC’s “La Brea,” was only at a 1.0 in Live + 3 Day numbers anyway, far behind “Next Level’s” Live + Same Day rating anyway.)
Of course, it was a calculated programming decision, with Fox electing to launch the culinary contest following its “America’s Game of the Week” NFL matchup featuring the Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys (and plenty of playoff implications).
The game, which was the most-watched TV event of New Year’s weekend, hauled in 26.8 million total viewers, making it the second most-watched Sunday afternoon game of the season on any network. Pretty good lead-in.
The tight Week 17 contest, a 25-22 Cardinals win, plus Fox’s post-game show “The OT,” led directly into “Next Level Chef” on the East Coast. “Chef” ended up averaging 5.1 million total viewers, which made it the most-watched unscripted broadcast debut in a year (since ABC’s “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” launched on Jan. 7, 2021).
Inside, Fox is mostly focusing on the demo, however. The three-floor Ramsay competition (the set really is a sight to behold) marked the network’s highest-rated debut in about two years — since “Lego Masters” launched on Feb. 5, 2020. As a matter of fact, Fox has now enjoyed the highest-rated unscripted series debut for the last three seasons to date: “Next Level Chef,” last year’s “Masked Singer” spinoff “The Masked Dancer” and that Will Arnett-hosted brick-building competition.
“’Next Level Chef’ is the first series to debut from Studio Ramsay Global — the new production company we announced with Gordon in August — and is a perfect example of what we plan to cook up together,” Rob Wade, president of Fox Entertainment’s alternative programming and specials, told TheWrap. “With Sunday NFL as a powerful platform, ‘Next Level Chef’ saw tremendous post-game sampling, which we hope to leverage in building a loyal following of new and ardent fans, just as all Gordon’s series enjoy.”
Fast-forward all of one night, when Fox’s new scripted program “The Cleaning Lady” (3.7 million total viewers) became the network’s most-watched drama debut in roughly two years, since the post-NFL series premiere of “9-1-1” spinoff “9-1-1 Lone Star.” (“The Cleaning Lady” followed “Lone Star” on Monday, which started Season 3 off with a 0.8 rating and 5.5 million total viewers.)
“Given the ‘9-1-1’ franchise continues to dominate Mondays, we were confident ‘Lone Star’ would have an impressive return and be the ideal lead-in for our bold, new drama ‘The Cleaning Lady’,” Michael Thorn, the president of entertainment for Fox Entertainment, told TheWrap. “Both shows carry a timely relevance, suspense and heart, making them highly compatible, so we’re pleased to see how well they’re performing together and sustaining Fox’s long-term success on Monday nights.”
“The Cleaning Lady” had a 0.5 rating in the key demo, which is decent for Fox, but nothing special in general.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday, Fox’s “I Can See Your Voice” returned to a lackluster 0.4 rating and 1.8 million total viewers. That led in to the time-period premiere of “Next Level Chef” (a 0.5 rating and 2.3 million), which came nowhere close to Sunday’s post-football numbers.
On Thursday, Fox tried again with an updated version of “Joe Millionaire” (one Joe is rich, one is not!) arriving 18 years after the first go-around. That two-hour premiere underwhelmed as well, drawing a 0.4 rating and 2 million total viewers. At the time of this writing, we only had those earliest-available Nielsen numbers, which are not adjusted for time-zone differences. Final Nielsen reports are delayed a day or two due to the New Year’s holiday.
But things are already looking up at Fox. On Friday night’s “SmackDown,” Roman Reigns returns from a hiatus prompted by a positive COVID-19 test. Now with Brock Lesnar as WWE Champion (to Reigns’ WWE Universal Championship), there should be some extra Friday fireworks — including in the Nielsen ratings — from the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. program. So maybe it’s more of a Happy New Year to Fox Sports.