ABCs TGIT schedule of Shonda Rhimes produced Thursday night hits has seen a bit of luster come off the 9-11 portion of the night. While Grey’s Anatomy is bucking most TV trends and is amazingly the second highest rated drama on TV as it heads into its 13th season, Scandal has taken a hit since it returned this February as did lead out HTGAWM. Though the latter two shows still get at least a 1.0 DVR lift after 3 days of viewing and still puts them among the biggest dramas on TV, they have lost a bit of their ratings strength even from this past fall. Still, in a TV landscape where everything is falling, it’s worth noting that after 3 days of DVR/VOD viewing, ABC is still winning Thursdays, even with just launched The Catch, which hasn’t broken out on Thursday thus far. (While numbers aren’t great after 6 eps, it’s worth remembering that Scandal didn’t break out ratings wise until midway through its 2nd season and that was in a less dire TV ratings climate. It would not be crazy for ABC to give this show another shot for next season ).
ABC has many more challenging things to worry about regarding their fall sked, i.e. Tuesday, and while Thursday needs some tending to, I wouldn’t abandon their Thursday theme or the TGIT moniker. They worked really hard to brand that night and it’s proven to be really successful for them. To even still win Thursday in L3 in the even more ratings depressed Spring is no small feat. (And in the just released L3 ratings for the top 10 broadcast and cable shows of the week of April 18-24, Scandal was number 7. That’s no small feat in its 5th season). That being said there are ways to make the night stronger, firstly, by launching a new drama out of Grey’s. NBC has smartly used The Voice to launch and give special previews to many shows of different genres. This season alone they launched a hit drama, Blindspot, a comedy, Superstore and a reality/variety show, Little Big Shots. Little Big Shots likely would have worked without the one time preview, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Regardless of what other moves ABC makes on their fall schedule, it makes little sense for ABC not to use their strong Monday reality duo of DWTS/The Bachelor and their strongest drama and second biggest show, Grey’s, to launch a new drama. Use your biggest assets to launch a new show.
Now before we come to that, lets get back to Scandal. Shonda Rhimes herself has said that it’s a show she feels will not have a long run ala Grey’s. ABC has already renewed it for next season- it’s 6th. I think there’s a way to make Scandal stronger again and make it beneficial for ABC, Ms. Rhimes and cast and crew. That is, to set an end date like ABC did with LOST. Let it run for 2 more seasons through Spring of 2018, BUT the next two seasons will only have 13-15 eps. Outside of its first season, Scandal has never produced less than 18 eps a season. This way Shonda can craft a tighter season (and have more advance time to) which for such an intricate show like Scandal, can only benefit the show. It will also be less taxing on Ms. Rhimes, cast and crew and they will have more time to devote to other projects. I would also suggest ABC premiere it in Jan which has many benefits:
A) They will have produced most of the eps for the season by the time the show premieres which allows them to promote the season dramatically with more footage etc.
B) They get to create an event out of it. The show will have been off for 7 months and people will have had more of a chance to miss it and catch up. Remember how both 24 and Alias benefited from this strategy in their 4th seasons, both shows rising to rating highs they hadn’t previously hit.
C) ABC can use their highly rated New Year’s Rockin Eve to promote Scandal’s return 5 days later on January 5th.
D) Scandal can run its entire seasons for 13-14 weeks uninterrupted through the first week in April.
E) Most inportantly ABC will have a TGIT show on all year except for the month of December. This way their brand is intact and they don’t have to worry about bridge programming like My Diet is Better Than Yours, that elicits zero passion and veers far off from the TGIT brand. It keeps TGIT on virtually the entire 10 month season. It also makes promoting Greys return in Feb that much easier and ABC has a hit on in high viewed Jan. This plan would seem to be a win/win for ABC and Shonda. It would appear to be a way to keep the night strong all year without large gaps and make the abbreviated run of Scandal an event and possibly its ratings stronger foranother two seasons.
So what should the new drama be at 9p? For the sake of this idea I’m going to say it’s the Shonda Rhimes produced, Still Star Crosseed. It has amassed a stellar cast led by British newcomer Lashana Lynch and was written by Scandal scribe and EP Heather Mitchell. On paper it sounds like it fits all the things that make a Shonda and TGIT show a hit but yet it’s also fresh in that it’s set in the 16th Century. I don’t know the reality of this being ready for fall. The show just started shooting this past week. I don’t know how much of a completed pilot ABC will see before they set their fall sked in a few weeks. Maybe they see enough that convinces them it’s ready. I also don’t know how many eps of an order they will give to this kind of a show. If not Still Star Crossed, then what? Does ABC feel okay putting a new non produced Shonda show on Thursday at 9? Could it be Secrets and Lies– a show that would certainly fit on the night and that’s EP’d by a Shonda protege Barbie Kligman? I don’t know the answers to these questions but for the sake of this scheduling piece I’m going to assume that Still Star Crossed comes out great and is ready for fall.
So ABC fall can look like this:
8p Grey’s Anatomy
9p Still Star Crossed
10p How To Get Away With Murder
They would run until Thaksgiving and ABC would use holiday specials in December.
Jan 5th would be the much heralded return of Scandal. If they’re able to produce 15 eps they could have a 2 hour premiere following a recap show at 8p for an all night premiere event. For the next 2 weeks ABC could run the previous week’s Scandal ep into the new ep and a rerun of Greys fall finale on Jan 26th and on February 2nd Greys returns at 8 and runs uninterrupted through its May finale. If ABC renews The Catch it can run for 13 weeks at 10pmstarting Jan 12. If not, it’s a place where ABC can launch a new drama. Should they desire to use Greys again to lead into new drama then Scandal can slide to 10 and the new drama at 9.
So from Feb 2- April 6 it would be Greys-Scandal-The Catch or Greys-new drama-Scandal. The 9-11 dramas will have their finales on April 6th and on April 13th Still Star Crossed (assuming it worked) and HTGAWM return for the final 6 weeks of the season to run their final eps.
It’s been years since a night with a theme and slogan like NBCs Must See TV campaign of the 90s was successful. In our current DVR/streaming/make your own TV schedule climate it would seem unlikely that would happen again. But ABC made TGIT happen, and made it successful. Yes it’s taken a hit but with some tweaks like I mentioned above, I think it can return stronger. It’s too valuable a night or theme to discard.