c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

“The Big Bang Theory” left no doubt about what show is truly the biggest hit on network television, opening its new season Thursday night with overwhelming ratings, the best premiere in its seven-year history.

That result also meant good news for the new CBS comedy that followed Thursday, “The Crazy Ones,” starring Robin Williams, which scored the best ratings for a new show this television season.

Many programs took a battering from the strength of the CBS comedies, especially the competing comedies on NBC, where the much-anticipated Michael J. Fox sitcom opened to less-than-impressive numbers. Still, “The Michael J. Fox Show” was the high point for NBC, as the critically admired comedy “Parks and Recreation” landed with its lowest premiere rating and tied its worst-ever performance overall.

The news was also bad for the one-time Fox hit “Glee,” which was down 35 percent from its opening ratings a year ago.

ABC’s ratings, however, held up because of a special two-hour edition of its long-running hit drama, “Grey’s Anatomy,” although that show experienced a year-to-year tumble, down 23 percent.

The results are based on initial overnight ratings; when the official national numbers are delivered later Friday some shows will probably improve (mainly the successes), while others may decline (mainly the have-nots). All networks now emphasize that viewing totals will rise for shows when “delayed viewing” is counted. CBS, for example, projects “Big Bang” will soar by an additional 4 million viewers within three days.

As it is, “Big Bang” was the story of Thursday night, with two episodes, at 8 p.m. and 8:30. Taken together as an hour entry, the show averaged just fewer than 19 million viewers and a 5.6 rating among advertiser-desirable viewers ages 18 to 49 — the best showing for any series this season.

That hour nicely set up “Crazy Ones,” which pulled in 15.6 million viewers, with a 4.0 rating in the 18-49 category.

CBS followed with the veteran sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” which still managed a respectable 11.5 million viewers and a 2.9 rating in the 18-49 group. CBS’ only relative weak spot came at 10 p.m., as the second-season premiere of “Elementary” was clearly stunted by the extra hour of “Grey’s.” It attracted just more than 10 million viewers but scored only a 2.1 in the 18-49 category, down 32 percent from its premiere a year ago.

NBC has invested tens of millions of dollars in Fox’s show but is throwing it into a ferociously competitive night with little protection. The series opened with 7.3 million viewers and a 2.1 in the 18-49 competition. Neither number is bad in the current context of television, but given the appeal of Fox, NBC surely hoped for better.

In the show’s defense, however, it was asked to self-start after the abysmal performance of “Parks and Recreation” from 8 p.m. to 9. That show pulled in only 3.3 million viewers (worst by far among all the four network entries Thursday) and a 1.3 in the 18-49 category, down 24 percent from its premiere a year ago.

At 10 on NBC, “Parenthood” also tied a series low with a 1.6 18-49 rating with just a little more than 5 million viewers.

Fox, the network that got a little uptick from “The X Factor” on Wednesday, seems to be happy that the show is settling in at a survival number: It averaged a 2.0 rating Thursday against the night’s formidable competition. That remains far below the show’s previous level, and it is far below the big numbers NBC’s singing show, “The Voice,” has been putting up. But “X Factor” looks stable, which is a positive.

“Glee” may be more a concern. Its 2.0 rating in the 18-49 group was on par with how the show ended last season, meaning further decline is all but assured.

For ABC, the good news for “Grey’s” is that it still can rustle up a hit-level 18-49 number (a 3.4) even though it is diminished from last year. It averaged just more than 9 million viewers.