A Few Early Fall ’14 Thoughts:

With the upfronts two months away, the nets are busy planning strategies for the upcoming fall season. I have a few thoughts on how the nets might reprogram certain nights for the fall. I assume as the upfronts draw closer I will likely update and add to these ideas:

A Possible move for THE BLACKLIST to Thu at 9p:

Bob Greenblatt has all but said NBC will likely use The Voice to launch a new drama next fall on Monday and that The Blacklist would likely move. I think it makes sense for NBC to move their hottest drama and one of TVs biggest hits overall (after L7) to the one night they need the most help. CBS wont be programming entertainment in the fall on Thu and even once their 6 week Football stint is over, they are very vulnerable at 9 currently (as is FOX). It would make sense for NBC to move The Blacklist to the anchor slot. Even though Grey’s is still strong, it’s not impossible for The Blacklist to do at least a 2.3 here. In Jan it regularly got that out of low rated reality  and its L7 gains of 2.0 in the demo and almost 6 million regularly prove this show is a real hit with its own audience. Most of that audience will likely follow it to Thu and NBC can command high ad rates on TVs most lucrative night for the biggest drama on TV now.

With Sunday Night Football, The Voice Mon and Tue, Chicago Fire, SVU and growing new hit Chicago PD on Wed and The Blacklist on Thu, plus Grimm on Fri, NBC would have powerful assets and hits every night of the week. It will enable them to launch their best new drama Mon at 10, possibly launch something new Wed at 8 and create a new night on Thu with a monster hit at 9.

A New Strategy for ABC Thu 8p:  

With The Big Bang Theory off the CBS sked for the first 6 weeks of the fall season, in favor of football, there’s huge opportunity for the other 3 nets to try to get something going Thu at 8. Lets not forget that while NBC has football on Sunday night and ESPN has Monday Night Football, huge (male skewing) shows like The Walking Dead and The Blacklist have flourished against it. Plus the Thursday games that have aired on the NFL network thus far have been much lower rated than the games earlier in the week. In a way, it’s a huge gift that the other nets will be facing Football Thu at 8 rather than TBBT and there’s ample opportunity that I expect each network will attempt to seize.

ABC has owned the last 2 hours of Thu for the last 2 seasons and their biggest obstacle has been the 8p hour. They have literally tried almost every genre – reality, male skewing drama, female skewing drama. Part of me thinks it might be the right time to move Shark Tank to the 8p slot. The show in its 5th season is still growing and currently dominating Friday. On a more viewed night like Thu, and without The Big Bang Theory there for 6 weeks, it’s certainly possible to see it 1) hit bigger heights 2) attract even more new viewers who weren’t even aware of its existence on Thu and 3) solve a huge problem slot for ABC. It’s not impossible to see that with a stronger 8p the other 2 hours grow as well and ABC be a dominant force for all 3 hours on Thu. Plus when TBBT returns to Thu in Nov, ABC will have established ST there and they will be a strong num 2 at 8 (though it’s certainly possible for CBS to move TBBT to 9p upon its return).

However, increasingly, part of me thinks ABC might go another way: They have 4 very interesting sounding multi camera projects in development. Outside of CBS, no other network has really had one pop big in recent memory despite CBSs success with the genre. With TBBT vacating Thu temporarily, ABC might want to try to establish a couple of multi cams in a timeslot people are used to seeing them. I’m sure ABC already sees huge potential with the Kevin Hart comedy based on his life (that he will recur as a supporting character beginning with the pilot). I could see that being paired with the Cristela Alonzo comedy. ABC has had much success in the past with semi autobiographical comedies starring and created by standups (like Cristela). The Kevin Hart comedy will likely get sampled at least once, wherever ABC puts it. While TBBT is off, Thu at 8 would be a great place to park it and it would give ABC 6 weeks to establish 2 new diverse, multi camera, comedies on a night other than Friday. (I could even see them picking up 3 multi cams with possibly The Winklers following LMS on Friday or maybe even on a more high profile night like Tue or Wed).

At this point either strategy makes sense to me and while I have long advocated ABC move Shark Tank to a more viewed night, assuming both comedies come out well,  ABC might be viewing the latter option as a better way to go. Shark Tank could stay dominating Fri and they could possibly develop some big multi camera comedy hits and fix a troubled slot.

SURVIVOR to Sun:

Survivor is the oldest reality show on the air and it is still one of the strongest. It’s currently even dwarfing American Idol head to head. CBS is developing another NCIS spinoff this season and this one feels like it has a better shot to be picked up, especially with Mark Harmon’s involvement.

CBS will likely want to give it the best shot to succeed and put NCIS:New Orleans in the hammock between the NCIS mothership and their big new success story of Person Of Interest at 10. NCIS:LA  will have had 5 seasons behind NCIS and it should be able to do the numbers Survivor currently gets Wed at 8. Plus, Criminal Minds has had some of their biggest audience numbers this season when following another drama (or a CM rerun at 8). This would free CBS to move Survivor to Sun where it could help them in a  few ways, but mostly in building up their current Sunday ratings average.

It would certainly better the numbers The Amazing Race is currently getting. Right now Survivor is getting a 2.4 while TAR is getting just under a 2.0. TAR, also one of TVs oldest reality series, is still getting numbers any network would want. But what if CBS slotted Survivor in the TAR slot for Fall and Spring and used TAR as a relief in Jan, OR it would enable them to use TAR in Jan to plug a hole on another night. CBS could also air the second TAR edition in the summer where it might get even get bigger numbers against lesser competition and extend its life like ABC did a number of years ago using The Bachelor in Jan and The Bachelorette in the summer.

Another plus for CBS moving Survivor to Sun. It will get same day NFL spots and they’re a good match together. The two Survivor premieres that launched out of the Super Bowl were among the biggest post Super Bowl audiences in recent history.

Perhaps the biggest plus for CBS moving Survivor to Sun would be that they could produce 90 min episodes in the fall. With CBS not beginning primetime most weeks until at least 7:30, it would enable them to air Survivor 8:30-10:00p and then just schedule a drama (perhaps a NEW male skewing drama like Vince Gilligan’s Battle Creek to take advantage of the NFL and Survivor audience and those that just finished watching The Walking Dead on AMC). This will help CBS stay on the grid (give or take a few minutes-it’s never gonna be perfect)  on the east coast and most especially –  be much stronger ratings wise on an important night.

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Is ABC Trying To Lose?

ABC just had a really good week. In addition to the Oscars hitting a 14 year high in viewers, Greys and Scandal returned to high ratings. Both were the top 2 dramas on all of broadcast TV last week and Scandal had their second highest ratings ever. Modern Family, while down, is still the second highest rated show on broadcast after The Big Bang Theory. Shark Tank is regularly dominating Friday night and in its 5th year, is still growing. And yet, ABCs overall strategy this season has led to some really big bombs and what’s so surprising is ABCs reticence to move things and just leave under performing and unloved shows in pivotal spots on their schedule. (There’s only been one show that was pulled – Lucky 7- Every other show has basically been allowed to run out all or most of their eps even while gathering series lows).

Lets take Tuesday for example: ABC began this season with an all new night led by SHIELD which was sure to open. This strategy is always risky but it worked pretty well for them in 2009 on Wednesday and in this case it yielded two shows that are sure to return next season (and deserve to). Shield isn’t a blockbuster but until this week it hadn’t hit lower than a 2.2 and generally goes up 1.5 in L7. Most importantly, it is giving ABC a show that brings in Men 18-34 which is one demo that they haven’t been able to recruit in the last few years. The Goldbergs while not a blockbuster, has proven it has an audience. It is regularly in the 1.5/1-7. zone & goes up about 1.0 in L7. With the right kind of nurturing this could turn into a big hit for them. The problem then arises with Trophy Wife,  a show very on brand for ABC that is clearly not connecting on Tue. Even by week 2 it was down to a 1.4 while Goldbergs was still a 2.1. Since January the show has been under a 1.0 and 3 million viewers and regularly coming in 5th behind the CW. That should be grounds for removal immediately. This show is on brand for ABC and I don’t get why they just wouldn’t relaunch it in spring on Wed after The Middle. If it tanks there, no one could accuse ABC of not giving it a fair shot, but just leaving it on Tue to flounder doesn’t help it and it certainly doesn’t help ABC. Even a Goldbergs rerun would do far better.

There are 3 dramas that have failed terribly in the Tue at 10p slot. But I think that’s the exact problem. It feels like ABC was just “filling” the slot. “Oh you failed – here’s another one” and repeat. There’s no overall strategy of what shows were going here. It felt like these were the other dramas we picked up last May. We’ll just put them into our open hole. There are currently two rival network dramas that are in the 2.0 area. It will be really hard for a new drama to suddenly break through here. They need to counter program. Having basically no audience at 9:30 isn’t doing them any favors either. But I don’t get how it’s acceptable or why they should be complacent to have Tue 9:30-11 be so underviewed. Leaving Trophy Wife there defies explanation. I also think it doesn’t help ABC to be one of 3 networks airing single camera comedies Tue at 9. Trophy Wife was in 5th place before NBC entered the comedy fray. It certainly wasn’t gonna get better.

Two years ago ABC and Paul Lee were derided rather unfairly for adding The Neighbors to their Wednesday lineup and while I thought the initial critical impression of The Neighbors was (as usual in this twitter/media world) incorrect and hyperbolic to a ridiculous degree, ABCs logic made sense. The night had 3 other family comedies. Having a younger skewing comedy at 9:30 didn’t make much sense and a family comedy would likely hold much more of the Modern Family audience (this was proven last spring with How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of your Life- a buzzless and quickly cancelled show that had the best MF retention in recent memory, if not ever). So what’s so perplexing about the Wednesday strategy this year is that it violates something that Paul Lee said himself two years ago. While I didn’t think Super Fun Night would work at 9:30, I could hear the argument that Rebel is a big star and they wanted to give her the best timeslot to succeed. But once the show didn’t work ratings wise, it would seem to back up the idea that a family comedy is the way to go. Scheduling Mixology here after all this evidence of what works in this slot seemed very self-defeating.

The most perplexing thing here is they have a family comedy, The Goldbergs doing okay on Tue. Not only would it complement Modern Family in all the aforementioned ways, but on Wed at 9:30 it wouldn’t be facing another comedy and would have a chance to really blossom. Isn’t that point? Networks should want to maximize their schedule for hits and the highest ratings and nurture new ones. This is one of those shows that looks like could really break out there. Why not make Goldbergs as big as it can be now and expose it to more viewers? This season, it’s likely not gonna grow out of the mid 1s on Tue at 9 but it could grow Wed at 9:30 and be that more valuable to ABC as it enters a second season.

So unsurprisingly, Mixology tanked in its premiere and now Modern Family has been trending down as well. ABC has a gem of a family comedy at 8 with The Middle but I think all this shuffling comedies in and out at 9:30, especially incompatible ones, is kind of devaluing their whole special family comedy night as a whole and bringing Modern Family down more than it should be.

Moving The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30 could not only help that show flourish and grow (I could see it hitting a 2.3 after MF) but it could actually help MF too. ABC could go back to selling their whole family comedy as a unit again – a place to watch from 8-10. At this point what do they have to lose? Trophy Wife has a .8 on Tue and Mixology is dead. (Mixology didn’t drop too much this week and I hope that ABC doesn’t view that as a win. A 1.6 or a 1.5 (and 4th place) after a 3.3 for Modern Family (1st place)  is complete rejection and they could and should want to do better, but I suspect it’s not getting pulled soon).

I think networks need to protect their hits. Once Mixology failed last week, why would they cut the last half of one of their highest rated shows – The Bachelor for a rerun of a pilot so soundly rejected the first time it aired. That helped the audience go away at 9:30 and sent Castle to a series low. So in addition to leaving weak shows in important time slots, we’re now damaging existing hits too? All in the name of Mixology?

There’s 2 and half months left to the season. ABC could make some changes now that could bolster both nights and actually help their newbies with potential this year:

They seem loathe to want to do a DWTS results show but even with a low demo that show would get 10 million viewers. They can air it Tue at 10 and that would be perfect counter programming to two network drams. It could also give their affiliates a lead into their local news which they haven’t had all year on Tue. With NBC and FOX airing single cams Tue 9 and CBS drama, the clear hole is reality. ABC could air the long on the self The Quest which could keep some of the young males watching Shield. Or ABC could just move Shield to 9p and either run a Shield or Shark Tank or MF/Goldbergs rerun at 8. This would free them up to move The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30. Both nights would likely see ratings upgrades as well as giving Shield and Goldbergs their best shot to flourish. Many people will scoff at these suggestions – DWTS at 10??? My answer is Why not? – Another new drama isn’t the answer this season. Wouldn’t 10 mil vs. the 2 million that watched Mind Games be appreciated by the network, the affiliates, Jimmy Kimmel?

I’m not naive enough to think that there aren’t other considerations that make these things more challenging than they seem (It takes a lot to produce a DWTS results show for example and right now they’re not budgeted for that nor is the production team prepared to etc). There could be other options for them to consider Tue from 9-11 but I think counterprogramming the other nets should be their primary focus. But I think staying pat and surrendering is a far more frightening prospect or should be for ABC. (Another idea: If Resurrection opens well, I could even see them encoring it Tue at 10 for extra sampling, maybe following a DWTS results show at 9.)

The  headline “Is ABC Trying To Lose” is a bit sarcastic, but it’s worth reiterating what I said earlier. ABC is doing far better than the media will let you know. In addition to all the shows I listed above, DWTS still gets 12 million viewers (yes the demo is low, but what network wouldn’t want 12 million viewers  these days). The Bachelor is a big demo hit 11 years into its run. They have a hit virtually every night of the week including Sunday with OUAT and TVs biggest scripted hit on Wed and the 2nd and 3rd biggest hits on Thu.  (To their credit, I also think Resurrection is their best drama pilot this year and they have scheduled it in the best place for it to do well and they have marketed it brilliantly). The real network that’s currently flopping is FOX where American Idol was down to a 2.4 last week. Last Thursday 5 Broadcast shows had higher 18-49 ratings than it did (3 on CBS , two on ABC)  and that’s essentially their highest rated show.  Monday and Tuesday nights are hitting new lows on FOX every week. They don’t have a show approaching the L7 numbers of MF, Greys or Scandal.

That being said, FOX just made adjustments to their Thu lineup which is sure to yield much higher ratings than they are currently getting and that’s primarily where the question “Is ABC Trying To Lose” comes from. No network is immune from nights and shows that aren’t working but they make adjustments to better that. Leaving Tue 9:30-11 under a 1.0 since January. Leaving shows like Wonderland, Betrayal to run out all their episodes while getting barely 3 million viewers and a .9 doesn’t sound like a network that wants to win.  I’m sure that’s not the case and I know running and scheduling a network is much harder than it seems and I’m not arrogant or stupid enough to think I know better or have all the answers. But I definitely know that leaving things that are working horribly and not making changes is senseless. There’s still opportunity for ABC to make changes on Tue and Wed to upgrade both of those nights. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to.

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GMA Is Still Number 1… By A Lot & That TODAY Demo Win of 12/16 Explained:

Two weeks ago much of the media was all atwitter (pun sorta intended) that the Today show had beaten GMA by a slim margin of 18,000 viewers in the advertiser coveted 25-54 demo (GMA still held a win in total viewers) for the first time in almost 6 months. You could tell they were readying for a Today show comeback story to start the New Year. Hey a win’s a win and it was definitely monumental for the Today Show. What surprised me most was that the pundits covering this just assumed the Today show mantra of “We’ve got a great show now” was working, and didn’t take a deeper look.

There’s no doubt that the Today Show is in a better place than they were 18 months ago, however it’s not as if Today’s show gains that week came at the expense of the other morning shows. In fact, all 3 network morning shows have been up as of late year to year and the week of 12/16 all 3 were up year to year in both total viewers and the demo. CBS This Morning, especially, is growing in ways a CBS morning show never has. That’s a show with a unique focus that viewers are clearly responding to. However, GMA is still posting gains in viewers and the demo year to year, every week. You can’t point to that week and say wow, GMA dropped a lot compared to last year, Today show is starting to pick up some of their viewers. In fact Today also had a demo win the last week of December ’12, so this is hardly unprecedented.

One media professional covering this even surmised that the biggest Today show daily win that week (which happened Wed 12/18)  might have been due to GMA broadcasting from the Vatican. I’ll assume this particular pundit was joking, and looking for a flashy lead, because it doesn’t quite compute that sending Josh Elliot and the much beloved Robin Roberts to greet the most loved Pope in ages would incite viewers to tune out. Again, I’ll assume it was a joke. However, there clearly were significant factors that week why Today might have been up and I found it strange that the AM media beat that generally covers this, didn’t seek the connection.

The week of Dec 16th, NBC primetime was on fire. They had a huge NFL game on Sunday, followed by the 2 night finale of their biggest (and one of TVs biggest) shows, The Voice. ABCs primetime was filled with low rated holiday specials and reruns as their big shows had signed off in originals the week before. The Wed of Today’s big win immediately followed the conclusion of The Voice the night before, where NBC was over a 4.0 in the 18-49 demo and close to 15 million at 10:59. ABC, on the other hand, had 2 hours of scripted reruns followed by What Would You Do that didn’t even crack a 1.0. More likely than GMA visits the Pope, was the fact that there were lots of eyeballs on NBC that week (and Tue night especially) as people drifted off to sleep while there were few people tuned to ABC. In fact, at the end of the same week in question, GMA had a huge demo win on Friday, not coincidentally after NBCs primetime ratings came back down to earth Wed and Thu. I don’t begrudge the media making a big to-do about a Today show win, but just like the early days of GMAs #1 status when they were attributing it to DWTS tie-ins, etc, there are other forces at work here.

What bolsters this idea in my mind, is that in the just released AM ratings for last week,  GMA had a mammoth win over Today, a disparity between the two they haven’t produced in almost 20 years. Last week GMA posted over a million lead in total viewers which included a huge demo win on Jan 2 of over 500,000 viewers –  GMAs largest single day win over Today in almost 20 years. (I would have expected a big GMA win on Jan 1st since ABC owns New Year’s Eve, however Tue and Wed (Jan 1) were excluded in ratings that week by all 3 shows due to the holiday.) It also happened on a week that almost of the GMA regulars were on vacation, while TODAY had a much touted reunion with former Today hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley, with current host Matt Lauer. Lots of promos on NBCs last big Sunday NFL game for that one. The huge win last week (and GMAs win the week before) suggest that for now, at least, the Today show win of the week of 12/16 likely had more to do with NBCs primetime fortunes than a sudden surge.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that TODAY isn’t in a better place than they were 18 months ago. They most definitely are. They are in a much stronger position to get a bigger post Olympic halo this Feb (after they likely win the 2 weeks they broadcast from the Olympics) than they did during 2012s Summer Olympics (when viewers literally flipped back to GMA the next day). The show and The Today team are definitely stronger and aren’t mired in all the negativity of that summer. But clearly, GMA is still #1 by a lot.

I get it. Stagnancy is boring. The Today show making a big comeback would be a huge media story and one that will generate lots of headlines. It could ultimately happen sooner than later, especially with NBCs Winter Olympics and their opportunity to showcase a morning show the network is now very proud of. I’m sure editors and reporters are salivating to write that story and many personally are likely looking to see a former favorite return to glory. But GMA is still number one and still growing and despite media’s efforts to assign their dominance to DWTS tie-ins and a more entertainment based slant on GMA, I think they’re number one for the exact same reason Today was number one was for 17 years: Viewers simply like this team, they like waking up to them. (Just like they loved Katie, Matt, Ann and Al. Just like they loved Meredith and Matt etc). They like that the GMA anchors seem to genuinely like each other.   Yes, there are days when certain stunts and show tie ins give you even a bigger bump. But ultimately I think it just comes down to “I like these guys”.  It’s as simple as that.

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SCANDALs Shortened Order Should Force ABC To Make Other Midseason Moves:

ABCs midseason schedule seems to tread the same areas that haven’t worked for them recently. They seem intent on filling holes with ill-fitting shows. They have kept the post Modern Family slot as a revolving door of new comedies not staying there more than half a season, and lately that includes young skewing ones that just don’t match up with MF’s audience at all. I think it’s finally catching up and starting to hurt the anchor comedies on this night. This week both The Middle and Modern Family got numbers so low that they don’t usually see until late spring. ABC has stopped promoting the current occupants of the :30 slots on the night yet they continue to air them. Back In The Game‘s last scheduled ep is this coming Wednesday but Super Fun Night, at present time, is still scheduled to run thru Feb. (ABC will air Goldbergs/Trophy Wife reruns Wed at 8:30 for 3 weeks beginning 12/18).

Meanwhile their most promising new comedy The Goldbergs is scheduled to stay on Tuesday where it is getting no higher than a 1.7. There’s clearly an audience for the show (albeit a small one currently). Both times it followed an Agents of SHIELD rerun it built by .5 out of it. It’s also been getting a .9 increase in L7 these last few weeks. It’s a perfect fit with Modern Family. Both are big mainstream family comedies. I don’t see how ABC thinks its gonna grow Tue at 9, especially as it clearly shares some comedy audience with New Girl.

Now comes word that ABC has to cut 4 eps of their biggest drama Scandal. I wonder if this latest issue, while not planned, forces ABC to rearrange their midseason schedule to better service their hits and make their nights more cohesive and nurture their growing newbies.

SHIELD is an island on Tuesday. It really needs another male skewing show to follow it. There’s also an opportunity to air a reality show in Jan while The Voice isn’t on. (I assume NBC will be expanding The Biggest Loser to 2 hours in Jan but don’t know for sure). I’ve long suggested Shark Tank for Tue at 9p, yet ABC seems reticent to move it off Friday.  They also have a very interesting sounding reality show called The Quest that was scheduled to debut this January and now doesn’t have a premiere date. The Quest sounds like the kind of show that could reignite the reality genre. It feels like a reality version of Game Of Thrones. If network TV needs anything now it’s a show that can make some noise. It should also skew more male than ABCs typical reality show and could make a great tandem with SHIELD and help keep some of their viewers and maybe give more people an incentive to watch it live.It’s also likely to do better than the 1.1 ABC is getting at 9:30 now and could funnel more viewers into their new 10p dramas. I’m guessing this isn’t likely to happen since they would need time to promote it and Tue in late Jan has the State of Union address followed by the Olympics in Feb.

At the very least ABC could air 3 weeks of Shark Tank in Jan, and an extra ep of The Bachelor the first Tue in Feb (like they did last year). Then they might be inclined to bring back the DWTS results show in late March. The demo won’t be high but it will be higher than a 1.1, plus it will at least give them 10 million viewers and their new 10p dramas a much better lead in.

Whatever they do on Tue, it will enable them to move The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30. This will present ABC with their most cohesive comedy lineup in a while: The Middle-Suburgatory-Modern Family-The Goldbergs. The :30 shows are shows that clearly have an audience and are liked and wouldn’t simply be hammock shows. It would also give The Goldbergs its best opportunity to grow. (Trophy Wife could air in the spring after Suburgatory or The Goldbergs completes their run).

I would assume that ABC wants Scandal on all 4 weeks of May sweeps and returning Feb 27th as planned only to break 4 weeks in the middle sounds like a really bad idea to me. They could instead promote the return of Scandal for March 20th which could be a clip show/catch up/behind the scenes special. Then March 27th they would roll out the final 8 eps uninterrupted thru their May finale. What does ABC do those 3 weeks from 2/27-3/20. That would be a good place for them to double up on eps of Mixology. I know broadcast networks are loathe to air comedies at 10, but Grey’s seems like a much more compatible audience for Mixology than MF anyway. It would have the Grey’s Anatomy winter return to lead into its premiere (likely a bigger than normal Grey’s audience) . The young women that watch Grey’s is the exact audience that likely would watch Mixology. If it bombs – it’s only 3 weeks. But it should also be enough time to display to ABC whether it’s a hit or not without hurting them if it’s the latter.

These moves should make each night stronger. They certainly make each night more cohesive. It also gives them the opportunity to grow their new comedies on a night where they won’t face other comedies and match up better audience wise with the existing hits than recent occupants.

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With SLEEPY HOLLOW Looking Strong, FOX Should Spread Out Their Hits:

Week 2 of Sleepy Hollow against mammoth premiere competition has solidified it as an early hit for FOX.   It’s FOXs biggest new hit in years and even ratings drops in future weeks (presuming they are not large) still will make this a major asset for them.  I don’t see why they wouldn’t order a full season even if that means 18 eps as opposed to 22. It seems silly for FOX to have their only 2 drama hits – SH and The Following –  share a Monday timeslot when they can both be used to bolster different nights.

FOXs schedule currently has Rake premiering on Thu in Jan in between fall and spring/summer 11 pod eps of Glee. FOX should move The Following to Thu at 9 in Jan. With CBS vacating drama in this time period it actually gives it a better shot to perform well. Plus with FOXs singing competitions down, it actually makes their Thu much stronger than Idol and unproven Rake.  (Rake can launch late spring/early summer or earlier to help another time period should it be needed, but likely the former).

Back to Monday. There is no need for FOX to move Bones to Fri (not that any of us thought it would happen. ) Fox can air Sleepy Hollow in two pods. A fall pod and a spring pod beginning in March and running uninterrupted through May (which can then lead into 24 in late spring/early Summer) .  Sleepy Hollow can take off Jan and Feb (especially with 2 Olympic weeks that month). Fox can launch Almost Human as planned in Nov to air in tandem with Sleepy Hollow for the remainder of its fall run. Then  in Jan, Bones can return to Mondays to air with the remainder of Almost Human’s eps and complete its 13 ep order right before the Olympics. The first Monday after the Olympics – March 4th, Sleepy Hollow will return and air uninterrupted until its May finale. (An added bonus with Bones being off in Nov and Dec, it should be able to air originals practically every weeks it’s on).

On another FOX related note, FOX might be able to remedy their X Factor issue simply. Remove the Thu results show and make a more action packed 2 hour Wed show including results (like DWTS). FOX could then air Masterchef Juniors Thu at 8. It’s currently one of the only few hours on the TV sked with no reality shows on any other net and the original MasterChef is currently one of FOXs highest rated reality shows.

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How Each Network’s Fall Lineup Can Be Stronger:

The big 4 have stepped it up and there is definitely a much better crop of pilots this year than last. I do however have some thoughts on how they could have better scheduled their fall lineups to their benefit. Interestingly enough, most of these thoughts are exactly the same ones I had when their skeds were announced before I had seen the pilots. After seeing all* of the pilots, I wasn’t struck with a thought of “oh, that’s why they did that etc”.  In most cases it made me think of how they could have made certain moves to strengthen their respective schedules.

I should note that each network has extremely smart and successful people in their scheduling departments who have been doing this for years and whom I have immense respect for. It’s more than possible that many of the decisions I am questioning will turn out rather successfully. But as someone who has studied and been a fan of the medium for many years, there are a few that made me wonder. Below are my thoughts for each of the big 4.

NBC: NBC has a very smart schedule, using their big hit The Voice to help launch what they and many others feel is their best drama The Blacklist. They smartly moved The Voice results to Tue 9p and are using it to make Chicago Fire a bigger hit in a timeslot that currently doesn’t have one. They smartly are starting over on Thu with new comedies that seem to be more mass appeal than their Thu options of late. My only big surprise at their schedule was scheduling Sean Saves the World as their Thu 9p anchor. I don’t usually think multi cams and single cams work together, but given the pedigree behind and in front of the camera, I thought it might make sense. After seeing the pilot I am rather surprised. It’s not a bad show and one could see how this could grow into a really good one. But with Victor Fresco and Sean Hayes at the helm, I guess I was expecting something a bit cleverer and less “sitcommy”. The situations feel very overly broad and forced. Pilots have to a lot of exposition to lay out and introducing of characters and I assume this will get much sharper with the 2nd ep. After watching About A Boy, I’m very surprised it wasn’t on NBCs Thu fall sked. I think it’s NBCs best comedy pilot which didn’t really surprise me since it comes from Jason Katims. This is Jason’s first comedy and is slightly less nuanced than his terrific dramas, but it’s no less heartfelt. It hues closely to the movie, but the first ep sets up great believable characters and a sweet funny show. Like his dramas, this show made me laugh and I was moved by the end of the ep. It would seem to be the show that could make David Walton break out. I think tonally it would fit much better than Sean with the other three new Thu comedies and especially Parenthood.  9p would have been a great place to place it OR they could have skedded Michael J. Fox at 9 and air About A Boy at 9:30 as a perfect lead to Jason’s own Parenthood. I think with Crazy Ones at 9p, CBS is more vulnerable than many want to acknowledge and NBC would be smart to take advantage of that. Michael J. Fox or About A Boy would seem a better option than Sean Saves The World. Sean could possibly be paired with NBCs other new multi cam, Undateable, at midseason. Either way, I think About A Boy should be part of NBCs Thu lineup.  (For what it’s worth I also enjoyed The Family Guide which About A Boy is currently scheduled to be paired with at midseason. They will make a nice compatible pair. The Family Guide would also have been a better fit with Welcome To The Family and MJ FOX than Sean Saves The World.)  As is, SSTW seems very incompatible with the rest of NBCs Thu lineup. I think when scheduling 3 new shows, it helps for them to have more in common stylistically and tone wise, so as to try to keep as many viewers as possible to sample all of them. Sean seems like it’s after a different audience than the other 2 Thu newbies. Welcome To the Family, About A Boy, MJ Fox, Parenthood are a perfect match together.

FOX: Fox has a much better crop of dramas and comedies this year – especially the comedies. I think Us and Them could really be something. It does a great job of making you laugh and be moved by the end of the ep (like About A Boy) and could also be the deserved breakout, finally, for Jason Ritter. Both he and Alexis Bledel have terrific chemistry and you’re really rooting for them by the end. The show also sets up both families really well. The fact that the pilot did this all in 22 minutes says a lot. Fox should make this show a priority for midseason (maybe after New Girl .or paired together with Surviving Jack, though Surviving Jack and Raising Hope would work together too).

I also think Fox might have been better off pairing Brooklyn Nine Nine and Enlisted on Tue. I would lament Fox’s decision to waste Bones and Enlisted (and Raising Hope on Fri) but I don’t expect those moves to actually happen. The thing I don’t understand about Fox’s fall sked is the one thing I questioned before they released it. With the downturn of singing shows not The Voice, especially Idol, giving 3 out of 4 hours of their Wed/Thu sked to X Factor still makes no sense to me. I think a show like Rake has a better shot getting sampled Wed at 8 – a slot that doesn’t have a huge hit – than the crowded area of Thu at 9 in midseason.  Frankly, one of their Mon sci-fi shows could air Wed at 8 OR even Bones could air there if their two sci-fi Mon dramas are together as planned for late fall. It seems a missed opportunity, especially when FOXs development was much stronger and they ordered more shows than recent years.

Drama wise I actually enjoyed Gang Related the most and think it could have paired really well on Mon with Bones. Don’t get why it’s not launching until summer.

I think should one of their Monday newbies work, it will stay there for the rest of the season and The Following will be on the move midseason, possibly to Thu at 9 where it could actually help FOX on that night.

CBS:  As I have suggested many times before their sked was announced, and right after, I don’t understand how The Big Bang Theory is not at 9p. It’s the biggest hit on broadcast TV and will only be bigger at 9. Instead, CBS is scheduling a risky (for them) new single cam, The Crazy Ones,  at 9 out of another new sitcom. Yes Robin Williams is a big movie star and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a big TV star, but so what. TV is littered with big star vehicles that failed (you know like Dennis Quaid on a very recent CBS show). The medium makes the stars, not the other way around. Plus this is a single cam which CBS has no success with recently. Some will say multi cam or single doesn’t matter if it’s funny. To an extent, that is true but why has CBS been so reticent to try one recently? They had a few in development last year that were getting positive buzz and they only greenlit Partners. CBS is the last huge broadcast network and they didn’t get there by accident. They know which shows – comedy and drama – mostly for work for them and they have largely hued to that over the last number of years. It’s not unfathomable for Crazy Ones to be a hit, but there’s no doubt CBSs placement of it is risky. Risks in many cases lead to big successes and CBS knows they have to expand beyond their overall formula to grow, but the show feels very unCBS and it certainly feels unlike any recent CBS hit sitcom. I think their placement of it in the anchor position following another new comedy makes it even riskier.

The Crazy Ones sticks out tremendously on CBSs Thu comedy block. It feels more like a David E. Kelley dramedy than the other 3 sitcoms, and not only because it’s single cam. It’s also strange to me that in Robin Williams’ return to network TV (or more specifically TV comedy)  for the first time in over 30 years, the two things that pop most are a young actor regularly asked to star in dramas (James Wolk) and a guest star who, unless I am mistaken, has no acting aspirations (Kelly Clarkson). I wouldn’t be shocked if she starts getting sitcom offers after this, though.

What I really don’t get about the Thu sked is they could just rearrange the same shows a bit more to their benefit: Two and A Half Men at 8 followed by The Millers. That show feels more CBS and has a terrific cast and a great creator in Greg Garcia. Margo Martindale shows that her exemplary acting chops aren’t limited to drama. I know this is being sold more as a Will Arnett vehicle but Margo steals the show. It would seem to be a perfect companion to 2.5 Men and a good lead into TBBT at 9 which could then be followed by Crazy Ones at 9:30. This sked would put both new comedies after established CBS hits, but also gives a bigger cushion for Crazy Ones. Thu 9p is a busy timeslot. It’s not impossible for the CBS audience to not totally embrace The Millers and then Crazy Ones will have a new unproven show leading into it AND it’s a tonal shift from The Millers. TBBT at 9p will garner ratings double any other option in the hour and could make CBS stronger at 10 with Elementary.

I actually think a CBS Thu lineup with the above sked and Mom at 9:30, not Crazy Ones, would likely result in a huge night for CBS and 2 new comedy hits, but with HIMYM leaving and no other big hits on Mon, it absolutely makes sense for CBS to try to launch Mom on Monday to add a big hit to that night. I think Mom is CBSs best new comedy as it really melds comedy and pathos while establishing real characters incredibly well. Anna Faris is a revelation in her more quieter, more painful moments, but the show has some laugh out loud moments as well. Allison Janney is great as always and her relationship/history with Anna’s character is established and completely believable in just a few scenes between the two of them. I feel like Chuck Lorre let this pilot breathe more than any of his other recent hits and really taps into life for a recovering addict, especially the pain. (Kudos to HIMYMs Pamela Fryman for great direction). The fact that it’s done as well in a multi cam is a testament to all involved behind and in front of the camera. The trailer didn’t do this show justice. A more impressive, fully developed multi cam pilot is hard to find recently.

I would never bet against CBS and it’s possible their current Thu sked will work out fine, but it’s also not impossible for their audience to drop every half hour once TBBT ends at 8:30 and in turn could help the NBC comedies (which seem a better fit for their respective network than Crazy Ones does) breakout.  Currently, once TBBT is over, CBS drops every half hour over the night with Elementary getting a 1.9/2.0 the last two weeks of the season (CBS was a 5.0 at 8p). If those new comedies that air 8:30-9:30 don’t perform, it’s not impossible for Elementary to be even more vulnerable against Scandal and NBCs strongest show there in years, Parenthood.

2.5 Men/The Millers/TBBT/Crazy Ones/Elementary helps CBS stay strong and mitigates the risk of the new shows in anchor positions. It gives the newbies their best chance to be sampled and grow an audience and eventually succeed. They’ll own 9p, and 10p will be stronger.

ABC: I saved the one I have the most suggestions for, for last.

I have spent the last few months writing how ABC should have flipped the order of The Bachelor and DWTS. The Bachelor in Fall/Spring and DWTS in Jan, so DWTS can have a rest and not face The Voice. That’s not gonna happen.  So I’ll move on to other things that I think are still in ABCs power to change:

Sunday: I do not get leaving Revenge at 9p. The show ended with a 1.7. I don’t think Betrayal is the kind of soap that can turn things around.  At this point it feels like another 666 Park Ave, or Red Widow. It’s well made and acted, but it’s dark and not noisy and not compelling enough to draw people in. Plus 666 had a 3.3 from Revenge leading into its premiere, Betrayal won’t. Revenge will be lucky to get a 2.0 now.

Unlike Revenge, I don’t understand at all why OUAT dropped this spring, but leaving this sked as is, is likely to bring ABC big year to year drops on Sunday. Why would they leave the sked as is? CBS leaving their underperforming Sun dramas in the same slots is a gift to ABC. Why aren’t they taking advantage of that? It’s especially curious as they have a really great show called Resurrection that’s currently scheduled to launch at midseason (I’m assuming Sunday after the Oscars). It’s a mystery but more importantly it’s an emotional drama. I don’t understand why this show isn’t airing Sunday at 9p in the fall. CBS isn’t changing their lineup. NBC has Football. This would be the perfect place and time for ABC to launch Resurrection. Putting it at 9 could help resuscitate the night. Revenge airing at 10 has a much better shot at growing with a relaunch than at 9. Resurrection could be a success for ABC and could also raise all the ships on the night with it. I know Paul Lee said he’s a big fan and that’s why he’s keeping it out of the fall glut, BUT it would seem to have a harder time launching in the spring for a number of reasons:

A) Have you seen what happens to broadcast ratings in the spring?

B) NBC is launching what I think is a very strong pilot with Believe also Sunday 9p in March. Unlike The Blackslist, this has emotional heft to it, in addition to mystery. It also appears to have new characters each week ala Touched by An Angel (or CBSs The Incredible Hulk from 30 years ago) which makes it easier for new people to jump in each week. It also has many similar themes to Resurrection and NBC has the Olympics as a huge promotional platform for it, just like ABC plans to use the Oscars. Why launch against another similar new show in the spring, (only likely to confuse viewers and dilute the message of your collective marketing, especially when both shows have similar themes) when you can have that audience (and marketing message) all to yourself while NBC is airing football?

C) The biggest obstacle would seem to be The Walking Dead but it doesn’t usually launch til mid October thus giving ABC a 2 week head start to get the show sampled, plus its last highest rated weeks air all March exactly when ABC would be launching Resurrection anyway, so fall would seem a much smarter place to launch.

Airing Resurrection Sun at 9 in the fall helps ABC give it the best opportunity to breakout and it also gives their Sunday shows a great opportunity to rebound. Leaving the Sun sked as is followed by Betrayal (a show they are selling as 13 weeks max, like they aren’t expecting it to exceed beyond that) is even more perplexing than airing DWTS in the fall. At least that show still pulls in 12 million viewers. The current Sunday sked will likely bring huge year to year drops and launching Resurrection in the spring comes with far more challenges. If ABC wasn’t going to promote a new Sunday drama in the fall, I might understand it more. But they will be spending money to promote Betrayal. Why not use those dollars to give one of your best new dramas its best shot at success? Sunday’s lineup should be OUAT/Resurrection/Revenge.

 (I even think Killer Women would be a much stronger Sunday option than Betrayal. Where Betrayal feels like a dour soap, Killer Women is a fun, more loud show, with BSG’s Tricia Helfer as a kick ass Texas Ranger, who plays the trumpet! It kind of feels like a more mainstream Justified. It’s more procedural but Tricia is terrific and it’s very nicely and visually directed by Lawrence Trilling. It has a great look to it. That show could sooner breakout Sunday at 10 this fall than Betrayal. I’m not generally a procedural fan and normally prefer soaps but in this case I think Killer Women is the show that could resonate more.)

Out of all the scheduling scenarios by the nets this fall, leaving Revenge at 9 followed by Betrayal is the one I honestly understand the least. It seems self-defeating.

Tuesday: While I get the logic of using SHIELD to launch The Goldbergs, I maintain that ABC should be airing Shark Tank Tue at 9 like I have been suggesting since last winter. It’s always risky launching en entire night of new shows, but unlike ’09 when ABC smartly did it with Wednesday, there is a big hit called The Voice on the night and this time they’re not launching 4 new family comedies, but two dramas and two comedies. It invites lots of opportunity for people to switch. I kind of wish ABC had moved Shark Tank to Tue this past Jan when there was little competition. It could have already been established there. Either way, it’s a great fit out of Shield. They are both shows that aim to be watched by the whole family (Shark Tank already is). Both shows would likely have a more male skew than a typical ABC show (Shark Tank already does).  Shield/Shark Tank/Lucky 7 is a perfect flow. The whole night is more male leaning than the typical ABC lineup. ABC could promote the entire New Tuesday heavily on Monday Night Football the night before. It also limits the risk in trying to launch 4 new disparate shows. It gives Lucky 7 a better shot to be sampled in what is shaping now to be a very tough slot for a newbie to make noise. As is, its competition is 2 broadcast hits moving to Tue at 10 and Sons of Anarchy on cable. With Shark Tank at 9 you know at least there will be an audience at 9:30 to at least give it a chance.  A new comedy at 9:30 could easily flop and should that happen, given what else is on, Lucky 7 is dead before it even premieres. (If Shark Tank did move to Tue, ABC could replace it on Fri with either Wife Swap, What Would You Do, another hour of 20/20, Secret Millionaire or even a Shark Tank rerun, though it would likely be smart not to overuse it. In the fall they could use Fri 9p to encore new comedies or Shield.)

Wednesday: I think ABC found a perfect bridge between The Middle and Modern Family with Back In the Game. I, however, don’t understand the placement of Super Fun Night after MF. I completely get ABCs decision to be in the Rebel Wilson business. They should want to be. I think SFN and Mixology would pair nicely together somewhere at midseason. (I think that show would have an easier time launching out of the fall glut). Over the last 4 years it’s been proven how shows with a younger skew and conceit (i.e. not a family comedy) don’t work after Modern Family. It’s a tonal shift. What really surprises me is that Paul Lee specifically said last year he wanted to find a family comedy for that slot which is why he scheduled The Neighbors there at ’12 upfronts and moved Happy Endings. That made lots of sense. This move would seem to violate that idea and there’s no evidence this show will buck that trend. In fact, How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life has proven this to be true. It’s had the best retention of out MF than any recent comedy has. Even as ABC has stopped promoting it (since they cancelled it), it has still done reasonably well. Last week it held 100 percent of a MF rerun lead with a 1.4 and almost all of its total viewers. I’m rather surprised ABC has cancelled this show (in addition to Body of Proof). I didn’t understand it when they did, but now I really think they should reconsider. The show has little buzz but it’s doing better in that slot than anything recent, plus it launched in the worst time of the year (after its first 2 weeks, it followed 2 weeks of MF reruns)  and with less promotion than any post MF has.

It also proves that a more traditional family comedy with familiar stars works best here. This is why I would schedule The Goldbergs after MF in the fall. With The Middle/Back In The Game/Modern Family/The Goldbergs, ABC has a very smart, perfectly matched comedy block.

They could possibly pair Trophy Wife with Suburgatory somewhere at midseason should they not be needed as replacements before.

* New CBS Thoughts added to this post Sunday 6/9/2013

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Snap CBS Fall Sked Judgement and How It Impacts Other Nets:

Here are some brief CBS thoughts and in their case I’d like to talk about how it impacts the other nets, because let’s face it, they are #1 and the last successful traditional broadcaster so their moves definitely have a big impact on the other big 3 nets.

I have been wondering out loud for the better part of a year and a half why CBS hasn’t done a 4 comedy lineup on Thu. In the last few weeks, just looking at the Thu overnights on Fri mornings it seemed clear to me that they absolutely must. They have a ratings behemoth in The Big Bang Theory at 8. Nothing on network TV comes close to it and yet from 9-11 they lose in the demo to ABC. Not even close in the demo and that’s with ABC getting a low 1.0 at 8p. So kudos to CBS for shaking things up on Thu.

I don’t quite comprehend why they’re not moving TBBT to 9p. Not only will this make that show even bigger and clearly the #1 9p show by a mile, but it could possibly help expose more people to Elementary, a show they clearly want to be a huge franchise and syndication opportunity for them. Instead they are leaving it at 8 and launching two new sitcoms from 8:30-9:30. The 9p show, Crazy Ones, while starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar is single cam, a genre they haven’t been able to make work as yet. Yes, it has stars in it, but in TV “the medium makes the stars”, not the other way around. There have been many a big star make the move to TV and it not work out (just ask Dennis Quaid whose CBS show just got cancelled after 21 eps). It’s more than likely Crazy Ones is hysterical and terrific, but it’s still a question mark, as is the great sounding The Millers. If I’m CBS. why would I want to give other nets the opportunity to make some ground after TBBT is over. Two and Half Men was getting lower numbers last year at 9p Monday than it is now on Thu. It is clearly being helped by airing after TBBT. Airing at 9:30 after a new show doesn’t guarantee that it will still be a mid 3.0 show, especially with hits on other nets.

I also think this schedule helps NBC tremendously. After TBBT ends at 8:30, NBC has three high-profile, mass appeal, new shows that will get ample promotional support. CBS airing two newbies from 8:30-9:30, no matter how good, is still a question mark. At the unveiling of their fall sked this morning, the esteemed Mr. Moonves said “I’m not quite sure people understand how big The Big Bang Theory is”. I do, Mr. Moonves, and my follow up would be why isn’t it on at 9. It’s so huge it would only do better at 9 and help your entire Thu sked. You could have done this:

8p- 2.5 Men

8:30 The Millers

9p TBBT

9:30 Crazy Ones

10p Elementary

All the same shows but scheduled to help the 8p and 10p shows get an extra piece of TBBT halo. This Monday HIMYM and 2BG bumped up to their best ratings in weeks. It was their season finales, but I’m sure the TBBT rerun at 8:30 didn’t hurt.

Let me break it down another way with the caveat that Crazy Ones will likely work but as always with TV, there’s no guarantee: With TBBT at 9p CBS kills at 9p. With Crazy Ones there, it’s still a question mark.  Crazy Ones would more than likely have a better shot at doing better out of TBBT at 9:30. Here’s why:

A) It’s still a new show and no amount of stars is ever a guarantee it becomes a hit AND it’s in their anchor position.

B) It’s single cam which CBS has no history of having a hit with recently.

C) It’s airing out of another new show at 8:30 (one that’s a multi cam, so tonal shift too!)

I think this Thu sked, while smart and what they needed to do, misses just a bit in terms of maximum impact it could have had. Now NBC with their comedy newbies have more than a fighting chance on Thu and a multi cam with Sean Hayes at 9p (very CBS) has a good shot against a new CBS single cam (jury’s still out if their audience will go for that).

TBBT at 9p would help Elementary grow more against a very strong Scandal (Last week Scandal beat Elementary 3.2-1.9).  Now it’s over at 8:30 and that possible halo is long gone.

Look, they’re CBS and in all likelihood Crazy Ones will be a hit and CBS will be up over year to year, but all I see when I look at the Thu sked is a big step in the right direction, but it could have been so much bigger. NBC has a smart Thu sked that could have at least one breakout comedy hit, maybe more. ABC scheduling Wonderland there as the only female skewing drama on the big 4, also looks like they made a great scheduling decision as well.

I commend CBS for moving PoI to Tue at 10 and as I suggested in Jan, they have a very cohesive Tue sked. I think NBC will benefit again here, as Chicago Fire was already a self-starter on Wed. Now it has The Voice and it’s technically the most traditional drama in the hour. It could pick up some CBS viewers. I definitely think that show will grow in year 2. I commend all three nets for finally attacking Tue. No one is sitting back.

I still wonder why CBS didn’t try to put a new show or stronger returning one Sun at 9, but with football overruns til 8p many weeks, they’ll likely be very strong on their one weaker night with regular shows. So they win anyway. They stand pat with their acclaimed The Good Wife and get nice ad rates. The CBS way, they win anyway. (It really  makes me wonder even more why ABC didn’t put Resurrection at 9 and Revenge at 10)

With CBS and NBC both having big ambitious shows Mon at 10, ABC does looks smart by leaving Castle there. This show is already winning Mon at 10 (Hawaii 5-0 was just moved to Fri since it was coming in 3rd on Monday)  and is the most traditional show here. New viewers are finding it on TNT. It’s not crazy to think some CBS viewers might migrate over to ABC at 10. It’s worth remembering that in the fall Revolution was handily beating Castle and by the end fo the season, Castle is winning despite NBC having a 2 point advantage at 9:30.

Overall, as usual, a smart CBS sked and one likely to be up over last year on a number of nights (Tue, Thu) but one that also makes me think they could have made it even stronger. As of now, when I see their sked I also see opportunities for other nets to make ground.

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