The Oscars Were a Hit, Sure — but What Was Sunday’s #2 Show?

The primetime-TV runner-up had less than one-third the audience of ABC's Academy Awards.
“Lost and Found” – When a man claiming to have lost his memory wakes up behind a dumpster with a gun in his hand, McCall and the team follow a trail of clues to help uncover his whereabouts the night before, on the CBS Original series THE EQUALIZER, Sunday, March 19 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Pictured: Adam Goldberg as Harry Keshegian. Photo: Jocelyn Prescod/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Adam Goldberg as Harry Keshegian in CBS drama "The Equalizer"
Jocelyn Prescod/CBS

The 95th Oscars brought 18.755 million viewers to ABC, according to Nielsen’s official national ratings, by no means a high mark but up 13 percent from last year. The No. 2 show on all of TV in Sunday primetime drew less than one-third that haul.

CBS’ “The Equalizer” starring Queen Latifah nabbed 5.599 million viewers at 8 p.m. on Sunday, per Nielsen data. That’s a pretty good average considering Jimmy Kimmel’s highly-anticipated Academy Awards monologue was on at the same time. Probably the best individual win — and speech — of the night, Ke Huy Quan as Supporting Actor from “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” also happened within the first half-hour.

Here, we should point out that technically CBS had a stronger show in Sunday primetime: “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. earned 6.040 million total viewers. While still less than a third what the Oscars got, we’re overlooking that one in favor of “The Equalizer” for a few reasons.

First and foremost, the Oscars didn’t start until 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT), so the long-running newsmagazine program only had a red — err, champagne — carpet to contend with. Second, Sundays are the only evening of the weekend in which the 7 o’clock hour is considered nationally programmed (and still not for every network, like The CW), and thus part of Nielsen’s national primetime ratings. Third, it’s an acceptable practice to separate news and sports from entertainment programming — all of those reasons combined have us handing “The Equalizer” Sunday’s silver medal.

“The Equalizer” Episode 311, titled “Never Again,” centered on Harry’s (Adam Goldberg) search for the culprit in a string of local antisemitic hate crimes. In the B story, McCall (Queen Latifah) attempts to win custody of Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes). The episode was written by Ora Yashar and Adam Glass, and directed by Chris Fisher.

Thus far this season, again omitting news and sports programming, “The Equalizer” is the fifth-most-watched series on broadcast TV, per Nielsen’s Live + Same Day data, ranking behind only CBS’ “FBI” (1) “Young Sheldon” (2), “NCIS” (4), and NBC’s “Chicago Fire” (3). Including a week of delayed viewing, “Equalizer” episodes slip to eighth place.

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" won seemingly everything at the Oscars. Here's the Best Picture win
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” won seemingly everything at the Oscars. Here’s the Best Picture winGetty Images

Of course, Sunday’s biggest winner remains “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which also won Best Picture and four other Oscars: Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for writer-director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, and Best Film Editing.

Find the full list of winners here; IndieWire’s review of the 2023 Oscars can be found here.

The most-watched Academy Awards ever came in 1998, when “Titanic” won Best Picture in front of 55.2 million TV viewers. The 2021 Academy Awards, when “Nomadland” won Best Picture, settled for an all-time low 10.5 million viewers.

“The Equalizer” Episode 312 airs this Sunday at 8/7 on CBS. The series is available on-demand on Paramount+.

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