Of the many baffling things ABC has done this year, the one that puzzles me the most is their continued treatment of Tuesday like it’s some less important night of their schedule. They schedule Tuesday like it’s Saturday. There’s zero flow to the night. There seems to be zero desire to actually make sure there are viewers. Most importantly, there seems to be no impetus to protect the gem of a comedy Fresh Off The Boat, that’s basically been an island on the night for a year and which until February hadn’t been paired with another family comedy. That comedy-The Real O Neal’s-has in 6 eps done better than anything else ABC has put on the night recently. It’s holding on to most of its FOTB lead and creatively feels like it’s another smart ABC family comedy with a unique twist and with a great cast led by the terrific Noah Galvin. This comedy should be renewed for next season and ABC should nurture it along with its lead in.
What’s really perplexing about ABCs continued Tuesday surrender is that its not relegated to this year. In fact, I wrote about this exact issue more than 2 years ago. (https://bigtvfan.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/is-abc-actively-trying-to-lose/). To their credit, ABC has smartly scheduled well the last few years. They brilliantly branded a night of Shonda Rhimes shows on Thu as TGIT and despite drops for the 9-11 shows, there’s not another more cohesive or strong block of 3 dramas on any other network. (In L3/L7 they are all within a couple tenths of each other with HTGAWM posting the smallest same day numbers making up the difference with delayed viewing). After years of putting ill fitting comedies at Wed at 9:30, ABC has created the strongest 4 comedy block of any network ratings wise and creatively. Monday nights have seen DWTS/The Bachelor not only stay relevant but also post extremely strong ratings in total viewers for the former and in the demo for the latter. In today’s decaying ratings world that’s rather impressive for an 11 year old show and a 14 year old show, respectively.
So why would ABC- a network that so skillfully and thematically branded nights like Wed and Thu- be content to leave Tuesdays such an absolute inconsistent mess, to their own detriment, year after year? This season, The Muppets got to hang around til March even though by December its numbers were minuscule and were hurting FOTB as a result. Switching FOTB back to the anchor position stemmed some erosion but waiting til March to finally pair FOTB with another family comedy has taken its toll. SHIELD is at this point an extremely niche show with a very small audience and leaving it in the anchor position at 9 has only made it impossible to schedule a cohesive night around it. It appeared to me a year ago, once FOTB carved out its own audience as a self starter, that the way to go for ABC was to launch another night of family comedies and move Shield to 10. While I think they should still do something like this for the rest of the season Shield doesn’t seem like a show that should even be on their fall sked. So is ABCs insistence on protecting corporate entities like Marvel and The Muppets worth it if it hurts an entire night of programming?
I’d argue that ABC has trained their audience not to watch them on Tuesday by continuing to air low rated, low passion shows year round. They’ve let Extreme Weight Loss occupy their Tuesday schedule in the summer not even getting 2 million viewers. It might be inexpensive and you can sell ads but at what cost? At a certain point your audience knows to avoid you on a certain night especially with other networks like NBC, CBS, even the CW programming their biggest hits on Tuesday and creating nights that flow. Look at what NBC has accomplished on Tuesday just this year. Even without The Voice, the two Chicago shows have put NBC in the plus column year to year in a ratings world where everything is going the other way. The CW has beaten ABC on many Tuesdays this season leaving them in 5th place.
The other issue is, as I wrote 2 years ago, they keep just treating 10p like a revolving door with no thought. Shows just get placed there to fill an empty slot, not because there’s a likelihood of finding an audience or because they fit. One failed show after another. One flops, bring on the next one. Instead of just moving Shield to 10 and even airing encores of their other family comedies from 9-10, Shield inhabits 9p and ill fitting shows air at 10. Forever was the rare show that actually was on brand for ABC, did reasonably well and had a passionate audience. Last May it joined Body of Proof as ABC Tuesday 10p shows that shouldn’t have been cancelled. Forever had a small audience but it dwarfed anything ABC has put in its slot since, plus it was gathering an extra 1.0 even last spring in delayed viewing (L7). I know they didn’t own it but how in 2015 do you throw away a show with that passionate of an audience, however small it might be? The Goldbergs wasn’t doing gangbusters on Tuesday its first season but ABC nurtured it on Wed and now look at it. (They don’t own that show either). Instead of letting 8 year old Castle continue to be treated to their 2 best lead ins on the schedule, the similar Forever could have been nurtured a bit behind DWTS. Once the way off brand, Wicked City, predictably tanked in November, why spend the next three months with low rated reruns and low rated fill ins, only to put another new show there for 2 weeks and then Beyond The Tank??
Beyond The Tank is a show that aired 3 times behind its mother show and held virtually all of its audience last May. So after being off the air for 7 months it was tasked with starting a night in Jan where, all things considered, it did fine but now invades the time slot ABC has trained audiences to flee. CBS scheduled its NCIS spin offs after the mother show, NBC has made sure their Chicago shows were launched either behind their parent shows, in the same tineslot or behind The Voice. Beyond The Tank has a format far different than its parent. It’s basically a longer version of the 2 minute updates that air on Shark Tank. In many cases, stories aren’t compelling enough or drama filled to warrant a 20 minute segment. Beyond The Tank stands to do the best paired with Shark Tank, at least for a time period longer than the 3 eps it did last spring. Last night BTT got a .5, the same number that got Of Kings and Prophets cancelled after 2 eps. So now ABC still has their Tuesday night problem and it seems they’ve kind of destroyed Beyond The Tank in the process. What’s the logic here? UPDATE 4/6 : It’s a week later and it’s even worse: SHIELD is under a .9 at 9:30 and BTT is in the 4s ar 10:30- Wicked City territory.
ABC has three original eps of Friday comedies Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken, two shows whose total viewers tower over anything they have aired on Tuesday in ages. They could potentially air them for 3 weeks Tuesday at 9 and move Shield to 10, and fill the other 4 weeks with reruns of The Goldbergs/The Middle. In all likelihood they would do better than the current occupants. Beyond The Tank will likely do better on Friday than anywhere else. At this point in the season I could see ABC not wanting to mess with their Fridays but there’s 8 Tuesdays left and I really don’t see how they can be satisfied with getting a .5 at 10p and Shield barely clearing 3 million at 9.
As for next season, I still think they should be planning on another 4 family comedy block. It’s the one thing they currently do better than any other network, they have an embarrassment of riches in comedies and of all things currently airing on other networks on Tuesday, there aren’t other family comedies. I would suggest moving The Goldbergs back to its original Tue 9p slot. It’s had two seasons to grow in between ABCs biggest Wed night hits and as evidenced by its strong ratings a few weeks ago at 8p, it’s fully capable of standing on its own. On Tuesday at 9p it would immediately give ABC their best numbers in years but would also help them build a cohesive comedy block.
8:30 One of their strongest new comedy pilots/
9p The Goldbergs/
9:30 The Real O Neal’s.
(8:30/9:30 could work either way. I just thought the Goldbergs higher numbers might give O Neal’s a boost). I’d schedule a new drama at 10pm and use Shield as one of their Jan/summer options.
I’ve had many questions regarding ABC this season:
-How was your second strongest drama from last year –Secrets & Lies- been left off the entire schedule, especially as you could have used it in Jan when your hit dramas were all on hiatus? Now it won’t air until the lower viewed summer months, a year after its first season finished.
-How does aging Castle continue to be the beneficiary of your two best lead ins on the schedule as opposed to a new drama? Look at how NBC brilliantly uses The Voice to continually launch and nurture new shows, in many cases to success.
-Why are you so reticent to move any underperforming show or try to better the ratings of any show with a pulse? Case in point: Quantico has to regularly follow shows that can’t clear a 1.0 instead of just moving it to 9p in hopes of it not having to regularly build out of low performing shows?
But nothing perplexes me more than the continued Tuesday surrender, where there’s no flow to the night, and the few assets on the night aren’t protected. ABC has a bunch of strong nights and many shows to work with but there are definitely issues and I think Channing Dungey’s number one thing to attack as she puts her first ABC schedule together is to give Tuesday the personality it desperately needs.