Extended Thoughts on the ’11-’12 TV Season…Plus Guesses on where NBC & ABC Might Air Two of their Buzziest Shows:

I have seen the fall pilots for all of the broadcast networks except the CW (though not for the lack of trying) plus FOX’s Terra Nova . I gave my snap judgment thoughts on each networks Fall Schedule in May after their respective upfront announcements. Now having seen the bulk of the pilots, and having more time to ruminate, I’d like to offer a few more thoughts, plus speculate on how some midseason scheduling might shake out: 

FOX – probably the best suited for an up season all around (certainly in the fall) unless X Factor does absolutely nothing, which isn’t likely. Seems like many who have seen Terra Nova think it’s something special and could be a really four quadrant show, appealing to every demo. If they make this a hit, will be interesting to see if they have time and resources to pull out a full 22 ep order and thereby Alcatraz will need to move to another night midseason. Assuming Touch gets picked up, FOX will have 3 new dramas to launch post January. Might Touch launch late spring into summer? That could be a possibility.

CBS – CBS should continue to do what they do. Hit at least a few doubles and triples. I’ll be shocked if Two Broke Girls doesn’t do well. It’s perfectly placed and the pilot was good. I actually think CBSs best drama pilot is A Gifted Man. Despite the supernatural premise, it was moving and beautifully acted by a great cast. I just wonder if any new scripted show can really breakout on a Friday night anymore with such limited audience available. If it can for any network, it would be CBS. But I feel like this show would be perfectly matched with The Good Wife on Sunday night.

There’s lots more to discuss with NBC and ABC that have bigger holes to fill.

NBC – After seeing their pilots, I still wonder why Up All Night wasn’t scheduled after The Office. Tonally it fits much better than Whitney. It’s single cam and Emily Spivey, who wrote for Parks and Recreation, created it, and it matches the comic sensibilities of the other Thursday night comedies. Plus it stars 3 well-loved comic actors. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Up All Night move to Thu 9:30 sometime next season. There is precedence for this to happen. 30 Rock premiered Wed at 8p 5 years ago (with another new show – 20 Good Years) and later that fall was moved to Thursdays.

NBC seems to have 2 really strong drama pilots for midseason with Smash and Awake. Smash is already perfectly slotted behind The Voice in January. (*Kudos to NBC for smartly starting promotion on last night’s The Voice. It was a seamless transition from Christina and Beverly’s performance of “Beautiful” to Carson introducing Katherine McPhee who sings “Beautiful” in the pilot to a an extended promo for it). Mondays on NBC will drastically improve in the ratings next year. First, in the fall, The Sing Off should have no trouble bettering the numbers  for Chuck/The Event, and should immediately turn that night in the plus column. Then, in January, I expect NBC to win the night flat-out. They are giving one of their strongest pilots, Smash, the best shot to succeed with the most compatible lead in, plus there is nothing else like it in the hour it airs. With an episode of The Voice airing after the Super Bowl, I expect The Voice to grow even more the next evening in its regular slot and beyond.

Obviously the show will be expanded to go through May and once the audition rounds finish I expect NBC to expand the live shows and schedule a results show. A few months ago, I suggested that NBC might cut down The Biggest Loser to an hour. They didn’t do it for the fall schedule, however I am guessing that come March there will be a Voice results show every week and I assume they will schedule it Tues at 9 after an hour of TBL. l think Parenthood will relinquish that timeslot so that NBC can run their other excellent drama (based on pilot) Awake, at 10 following the results show. The show can air its 13 ep order uninterrupted which benefits a show of this serial nature. Airing Smash and Awake after The Voice gives their two best pilots the best shot at success. Monday and Tuesday nights in the spring should be vastly up vs. last season for NBC. Actually, with the NFL in the fall (the biggest show in the fall unless X Factor is astronomically high), The Super Bowl and The Voice, there is no way NBC wont be up dramatically vs. the last few seasons. They also finally have a few shows that have the chance to break out and they now have a show that affords them the best timeslot(s) to get them sampled.

ABC –ABC has their best crop of drama pilots in years. They are on brand and in a few cases do what ABC does best –  take risks and try different things than are currently on TV. Lots of people questioned why ABC didn’t schedule G.C.B. on Sundays in the fall or at least on Wednesday. Regarding Sunday, I absolutely think they made the right decision. Paired with Desperate Housewives, it’s just too similar and that doesn’t always work, even though on paper it seems a perfect match. Pan Am should appeal to the same audience plus potentially attract some men as well. I think ABC can promote G.C.B. heavily during the Oscars and the following Sunday debut it following a new DH. The next Sunday and for at least 8 weeks,, G.C.B. can air on Sundays at 9p in the Housewives timeslot and if both or even one of ABCs new Sunday dramas have broken out, it’s perfectly situated there. DH can take a break for 8 weeks and come back for its final few new eps of the season in May. This solves a few problems for ABC: 1) It cuts down on the usual reruns for DH in the spring (and DH doesn’t rerun well). 2) Gives viewers that are fans of DH a new show that hews to similar themes. 3) Finally, it establishes what could likely be DH’s successor in the same timeslot. DH has no more than 2 seasons left and if ABC launches a few new drama hits this year, maybe only one. I also can see ABC using the Oscars to heavily promote The River, which like Awake on NBC, can launch in March and run its 13 eps uninterrupted (Way too premature to speculate on where they can air it. It’s a unique and special show for them. It will also depend on what holes they have at that time) . I do however, think Scandal should/might launch in January in Private Practice’s slot. PP can then come back in March/April and air new eps in Grey’s slot when that show would normally be in (low rated) rerun mode. Once Scandal finishes its 13 ep run, Greys/PP can reconvene together for their final eps of the season and if Scandal breaks out it can be ABCs Thursday successor to PP and eventually Grey’s. These moves help ABC launch new shows out of existing hits while maximizing their schedule to alleviate running lower rated reruns.

ABC is vulnerable on their biggest night, Mon, once The Voice joins the night. The Bachelor/Bachelorette has trended down these last 2 incarnations and it has never had a strong reality/performance show as competition before, like it will with The Voice. DWTS should be okay come March, but it is also vulnerable as The Voice is definitely younger skewing and will already have had a 2 and half month head start on DWTS. Live TV draws viewers like nothing else on TV these days. Whether sports, IDOL, DWTS, or The Voice, those are the only shows that bring in volumes of people and ratings that network TV used to garner on a regular basis. As I have said before, ABC is vulnerable because they don’t have big sporting events, and they have a 4 month window in the middle of the season (between DWTS cycles) without a big live performance show. They could really benefit from a new one. Obviously, that’s way easier said than done.

ABC finally has the right show to bridge The Middle and Modern Family with Suburgatory and if the show lives up to the pilot, I think ABC has the best 2 hour comedy block from start to finish.

Final thought for now: I think ABC should cancel their order of Winter Wipeout. Yes it could help a weaker timeslot for 8 weeks. But it hurts the franchise overall. The show is lower rated this Summer vs. last and that’s likely due to being on the air since January. Obviously if they only use it for 8 weeks next Winter, it will have a hiatus between editions. But So You Think You Can Dance has never reclaimed their summer ratings highs since the season FOX aired that Fall edition. ABC should be able to weather the winter without Wipeout and the 8 eps they would have used in the Winter could just be added to the Summer order and they can have a 24-30 eps order for Summer. (That gives them new eps twice a week All Summer) I think this elongates the lifespan of the franchise, which I’m sure is what they desire. One idea they could possibly do that wouldn’t dilute the show is produce 1 or 2 two hour Celebrity editions that they could use for February sweeps. (Jesse Tyler Ferguson has said in the past he’d love to do it). They would get 4 hours of a “special” edition of the show,  keep it fresh in people’s minds, but not overuse it.

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