Everyone has their favorite TV shows, but what do the ratings say? Every year, the information, data and measurement firm Nielsen releases a list of the most-watched TV shows of the season. The new list, which looks at shows airing from fall 2019 to May 2020, has a little bit of everything, from reality TV competitions to medical dramas.
Sports programs aside, it’s law enforcement that really performs. In fact, three of the top five dramas are procedural. Perhaps surprisingly, there’s only one sitcom in the top 10.
Read on for the 30 most-watched shows of the 2019-2020 TV season, according to Nielsen and reported by USA Today. (FYI, viewing figures count TV viewing within seven days of the initial airdate but don’t include streaming.)
30. ‘American Idol’ (ABC)
Viewers: 8.3 million
The eighteenth season of singing competition “American Idol” premiered on February 16, 2020, on ABC, with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie as judges and Ryan Seacrest as host. Although taping was suspended after the top 21 were revealed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and contestants were sent home, the show resumed production in late April with remote filming. On May 17, 2020, Just Sam was crowned as the winner.
29. ‘Mom’ (CBS)
Viewers: 8.52 million
“Mom,” starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney, has been a popular sitcom since it made its debut in 2013. Faris plays Christy, a single mom trying to get her life back on track after struggling with addiction, while Janney is her mom Bonnie, who has had her own addiction issues. The show has been praised for tackling real-life issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, relapse, cancer, domestic violence and miscarriage with both humor and sensitivity.
28. ‘Station 19’ (ABC)
Viewers: 8.55 million
Since “Station 19” premiered in 2018 (as the second “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off after “Private Practice”), it’s been a hit with viewers. The Seattle-based action-drama series focuses on the lives of the men and women at Seattle Fire Station 19, with a cast including Jaina Lee Ortiz, Jason George, Grey Damon, Barrett Doss, Alberto Frezza, Jay Hayden, Okieriete Onaodowan, Danielle Savre and Miguel Sandoval. As expected, characters from “Grey’s Anatomy” make occasional appearances.
27. ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ (CBS)
Viewers: 8.913 million
The first spin-off of the hugely successful “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” has been a ratings winner for CBS since it premiered in 2009 and was renewed for a 12th season in May 2020. The cast is led by LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell as Special Agents Sam Hanna and G. Callen, who are assigned to the Office of Special Projects, a specialist branch of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. This one is on the watch list of any fan of military dramas and police procedurals.
26. ‘Magnum P.I.’ (CBS)
Viewers: 8.914 million
A modern take on the classic series from the 1980s starring Tom Selleck, the “Magnum P.I.” reboot premiered in 2018, with Jay Hernandez in the role of Thomas Magnum. The decorated former Navy SEAL returns home from Afghanistan and embarks upon a career as a private investigator. The show also stars Perdita Weeks as former M16 agent Juliet Higgins, Zachary Knighton as Marine veteran and tiki bar owner Orville “Rick” Wright, and Tim Kang as Magnum’s frenemy HPD Detective Gordon Katsumoto.
25. ‘AGT: The Champions’ (NBC)
Viewers: 8.9 million
“America’s Got Talent: The Champions” is a spin-off of talent show “America’s Got Talent,” created by Simon Cowell. A variety of previous contestants, including winners, finalists and live round participants, compete against each other to secure a place in a grand finale, in which the winner receives a cash prize and the title of America’s chosen “World Champion.” In February 2020, Mumbai-based dance crew V.Unbeatable took the second season crown.
24. ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ (Fox)
Viewers: 9.08 million
Action police procedural “9-1-1: Lone Star” focuses on the fire, police and ambulance departments of the fictional company 126, located in Austin, Texas. A newcomer on the list, it premiered in January 2020 and was renewed for a second season in April. The series stars Rob Lowe as firefighter captain Owen Strand, who was a first responder on the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, alongside Liv Tyler as Michelle Blake, the paramedic Emergency Medical Services (EMS) captain.
23. ‘Survivor’ (CBS)
Viewers: 8.3 million
The American version of the reality TV show “Survivor” premiered in 2000, hosted by television personality Jeff Probst. In the show, a group of strangers placed in an isolated location without food or shelter competes for a grand prize of $1 million and the title of “Sole Survivor.” The 40th season, “Survivor: Winners at War,” featured two tribes of ten winners from past “Survivor” seasons.
22. ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC)
Viewers: 9.39 million
The longest-running primetime medical drama and the longest-running scripted primetime show currently airing on ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” was renewed for seasons 16 and 17 in May 2019. The show follows the doctors at Seattle’s Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, including Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) and, of course, Meredith Grey herself.
Ellen Pompeo, who plays Grey, told Variety in April, “I didn’t ever think that I would stay on the show this long. It happened, and here I am. It’s been this incredible platform for me.”
21. ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ (CBS)
Viewers: 9.58 million
The third series of the “NCIS” franchise, “NCIS: New Orleans,” centers around criminal cases involving military personnel in The Big Easy. It stars Scott Bakula as Dwayne “King” Cassius Pride, NCIS Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) and Special Agent in Charge (SAC). Other cast members include Rob Kerkovich as forensic scientist Sebastian Lund and CCH Pounder as medical examiner Loretta Wade. The sixth season ended in April 2020.
20. ‘Hawaii Five-0’ (CBS)
Viewers: 9.68 million
Another police procedural series that has viewers gripped is “Hawaii Five-0,” the reboot of the original series that ran from 1968 to 1980. Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett, head of the Five-0 task force, is played by Alex O’Loughlin, while Scott Caan is Detective Sergeant Danny “Danno” Williams, the de facto second-in-command. The series premiered in September 2010 on CBS and ran for 10 seasons, with the final episode airing on April 3, 2020.
19. ‘New Amsterdam’ (NBC)
Viewers: 9.7 million
Medical drama “New Amsterdam” is based on the book “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital” by Eric Manheimer. The show premiered in 2018 and stars Ryan Eggold, Freema Agyeman, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims, Anupam Kher and Tyler Labine. In January 2020, NBC renewed the series for three additional seasons.
18. ‘FBI: Most Wanted’ (CBS)
Viewers: 10.2 million
From the team behind “FBI” and the “Law & Order” franchise, “FBI: Most Wanted” focuses on the Fugitive Task Force as it tries to apprehend the criminals on the Bureau’s Most Wanted list. The cast includes Julian McMahon as Jess LaCroix, FBI Supervisory Special Agent, and Kellan Lutz as Kenny Crosby, FBI Special Agent. The series premiered on Jan. 7, 2020, and was renewed for a second season in May.
17. ‘The Voice’ (NBC)
Viewers: 10.2 million
“The Voice” aired two seasons over the course of 2019-2020. The 17th season ran from September through December of 2019, and the 18th season of reality singing competition “The Voice” ran from February 24 to May 19, 2020, with Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend returning as coaches and Nick Jonas coming on board to replace Gwen Stefani in season 18. For the first time in the show’s history, the first artist in the blind auditions — Todd Tilghman — went on to become the season winner. Toneisha Harris was runner-up, making her the highest-placed Black female singer in “Voice” history.
16. ‘9-1-1’ (Fox)
Viewers: 10.42 million
Yet another procedural show — it’s pretty clear what U.S. audiences like — “9-1-1” follows the lives of police officers, paramedics, firefighters and dispatchers in Los Angeles. Angela Bassett plays LAPD patrol sergeant Athena Carter, alongside Peter Krause as LAFD Station 118 captain Robert “Bobby” Nash and Oliver Stark as firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley. The series premiered in 2018 and, in April, Fox renewed it for a fourth season.
15. ’60 Minutes’ (CBS)
Viewers: 10.5 million
News magazine broadcast show “60 Minutes” is the longest-running show in the Nielsen top 30. It made its debut in 1968 and has been held in high esteem since. In 2002, it was ranked No. 6 on TV Guide’s list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time and, in 2013, it was ranked No. 24 on the magazine’s list of the 60 best series of all time.
14. ‘Bull’ (CBS)
Viewers: 10.6 million
The legal drama series “Bull” stars Michael Weatherly as psychologist Dr. Jason Bull, who heads up a jury consulting firm. The show is inspired by the early career of Phil McGraw, who serves as an executive producer. “Bull” premiered in 2016 and was renewed for a fifth season in May 2020.
13. ‘The Masked Singer’ (Fox)
Viewers: 10.7 million
Reality singing competition “The Masked Singer” premiered on Fox in January 2019, featuring celebrities singing covers of famous songs while concealing their identities with elaborate head-to-toe costumes and face masks. Each week, panelists Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke, helped by the audience, vote for their favorite performance. The celebrity with the fewest votes is eliminated from the competition — but before they go, they must take off their mask and reveal their true identity.
12. ‘The Good Doctor’ (ABC)
Viewers: 10.8 million
“The Good Doctor” features surgeon Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a young man who has autism and savant syndrome. He uses his extraordinary gifts, which include near-photographic recall and the ability to observe minute details and changes, to save lives, challenging stigma at the same time. In February 2020, “The Good Doctor” was renewed for a fourth season.
11. ‘Chicago Med’ (NBC)
Viewers: 11.22 million
The third series in the “Chicago” franchise (after “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.”), “Chicago Med” is set in the emergency department at Gaffney Chicago Medical Center. The cast includes Nick Gehlfuss as former plastic surgeon and ER supervising attending physician Dr. Will Halstead; ER nurse Yaya DaCosta as April Sexton; and Torrey DeVitto as pediatrician Dr. Natalie Manning. In February 2020, NBC renewed “Chicago Med” for a sixth, seventh and eighth season.
10. ‘Chicago P.D.’ (NBC)
Viewers: 11.23 million
“Chicago Fire” spin-off “Chicago P.D.” follows the fictional District 21 of the Chicago Police Department, which is made up of uniformed cops and the elite Intelligence Unit, led by Detective Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe). Other cast members include Jon Seda as Senior Detective Antonio Dawson and Jesse Lee Soffer as Detective Jay Halstead. The show has been running since 2014, and was renewed for a 10th season in February 2020.
9. ‘Young Sheldon’ (CBS)
Viewers: 11.45 million
“Young Sheldon” is a spin-off prequel to “The Big Bang Theory,” which aired from 2007 to 2019. At the start of the series, Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) is age 9, living with his family in East Texas and going to high school. The cast includes Zoe Perry, Lance Barber, Montana Jordan, Raegan Revord and Annie Potts. Jim Parsons, who played the adult Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory,” is involved, too — he narrates the series and serves as an executive producer.
8. ‘This Is Us’ (NBC)
Viewers: 11.55 million
Since its debut in 2016, “This Is Us” has enjoyed high ratings and strong reviews. The drama follows the lives and families of two parents and their three children, going backward and forward in time. The award-winning ensemble cast includes Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Ron Cephas Jones, Jon Huertas and Alexandra Breckenridge.
7. ‘Chicago Fire’ (NBC)
Viewers: 11.7 million
The first installment of Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise, “Chicago Fire” premiered in October 2012. It follows the firefighters and paramedics working at Firehouse 51 of the Chicago Fire Department, such as Jesse Spencer as Captain Matthew Casey, Taylor Kinney as Lieutenant Kelly Severide and Monica Raymund as firefighter candidate Gabriela “Gabby” Dawson. In February 2020, NBC renewed the show for three more seasons.
6. ‘Blue Bloods’ (CBS)
Viewers: 11.96 million
“Blue Bloods” is — yes — another procedural drama. This one revolves around the fictional Reagan family in New York City, a family with strong ties to law enforcement. The cast includes Tom Selleck as New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Daniel “Danny” Fitzgerald Reagan, and Bridget Moynahan as ADA Erin Reagan. “Blue Bloods” premiered in September 2010, and was renewed for an 11th season in May 2020.
5. ‘FBI’ (CBS)
Viewers: 12.55 million
“FBI” shines a light on the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which includes special agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym), her partner Omar Adom “O.A” Zidan (Zeeko Zaki) and assistant special agent-in-charge Jubal Valentine (Jeremy Sisto). The COVID-19 pandemic halted filming before the end of season two production, meaning that episode 19, “Emotional Rescue,” served as the season finale. In May 2020, “FBI” was renewed for a third season.
4. ‘Monday Night Football’ (ESPN)
Viewers: 12.8 million
In 2019, the Monday Night Football broadcast team went through some changes. Jason Witten went back to the Dallas Cowboys and rules analyst Jeff Triplette was replaced by John Parry. Then Parry retired after Super Bowl LIII. The team as it stands now is made up of Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Booger McFarland (color commentator) and Lisa Salters (sideline reporter). The 2019-2020 season included the 50th anniversary of the show.
3. ‘Thursday Night Football’ (Fox)
Viewers: 15 million
Apparently, U.S. television viewers prefer watching football on Thursdays rather than Mondays — or at least they did during the 2019 season. Games were called by the network’s lead broadcast team Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, with sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink and rules analyst Mike Pereira. The 2020 NFL season is set to begin on Sept. 10 (depending upon the status of the COVID-19 pandemic), when defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs face the Houston Texans.
2. ‘NCIS’ (CBS)
Viewers: 15.3 million
Surprise, surprise. Another police procedural. This one revolves around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, led by former Marine and NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). To date, it’s the second-longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime TV series (after “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which made its debut in 1999). “NCIS” premiered in 2013 and was renewed for its 18th season in May 2020.
1. ‘Sunday Night Football’ (NBC)
Viewers: 20.1 million
The clear frontrunner with 20.1 million viewers is NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” The show first held the top spot on Nielsen’s list for the 2011 season, an all-time first for a sports program. It returned to the top spot again in 2013 and held off the competition for the next two years. Depending on COVID-19, the 2020 season is scheduled to start on Sept. 13, with the Dallas Cowboys facing the Los Angeles Rams.