TV Ratings: 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Leads Sunday in Early Numbers

Eric Liebowitz/NBC
John Legend as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.

NBC's live staging pulls "Hairspray"-esque ratings, tying "60 Minutes" as the night's top show among households.

More than a year after its last staging of a live musical, in the now semi-traditional slot between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, NBC offered up an Easter event for 2018 in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Per early ratings, the biblical belt-fest put out a solid showing for the night, tying CBS' 60 Minutes among households and topping ABC's American Idol. It averaged a 6.0 overnight rating among Nielsen's metered market households, putting it in an advantageous position for total audience.

Compared to NBC's last live production, Hairspray in December 2016, the show was essentially flat. That show ultimately fetched a middling 9 million viewers, after first scoring a 5.9 overnight rating, ranking last among contemporary TV musical stagings. NBC fared much better in 2013 and 2015 — with The Sound of Music and The Wiz, respectively. (Nothing has ever approached The Sound of Music's 18.6 million viewers.)

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1970 rock opera, updated for NBC with John Legend playing the titular religious figure, also came from the same production team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — who handled the previous December musicals.

Airing a special on an actual holiday can be tricky business. All of NBC's previous efforts just ran on a random weeknight. Fox tried a go at Palm Sunday in 2016, tackling an ambitious al fresco staging of The Passion. Another spin on Jesus Christ's last days, one that relied on eclectic pop tunes rather than a familiar songbook, failed to drum up much heat. It averaged a 4.3 overnight rating.

Looking ahead, NBC's next live musical is not currently dated. The network was supposed to deliver Bye Bye Birdie in 2017, but it now won't air until 2019 (at the earliest) on account of star Jennifer Lopez's busy schedule with two other NBC series.

More to come...

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