After many declines, and far few new hits, the new TV season has reversed that trend for network TV. CBSs Monday shows are up a large amount. Ditto for ABCs Wed shows. Three new comedies are off to big starts, two of them (New Girl, 2 Broke Girls) really big. Yet, on the biggest night for network TV – Thursday – every network is underperforming. FOX has been winning and will likely continue to, with even one hour of X Factor, but let’s be honest: – With all the hype, money and big stars involved, I know FOX wasn’t expecting a 3.7 for X Factor, .1 ahead of 8-year-old Grey’s (as was the case last week). But Between X/IDOL/and Bones, FOX should have no trouble winning the night all season…. Unless one of the other big 3 networks steps up. Every network has an opportunity to take a shot with at least one hour on this night and make significant changes. No one is likely to do anything until January, but I bet someone makes a big move by the first of the year. Let’s take a look at their options.
NBC – The network with the least to lose and most to gain. Three of NBCs comedies are critically acclaimed and yet except for The Office, they are all underperforming. The Office is trending down like an 8-year-old show does, but not at all at an alarming rate. Whitney doesn’t have critical support and as of last week doesn’t have ratings to make up for that. It would seem to make sense for NBC to move Parks and Recreation back to 9:30 and I think they would do well to shake up the 8p hour. At 10p I could see them slotting The Firm there (as opposed to Sun 10p as scheduled. I expect them to just air Celebrity Apprentice 9-11p this Spring like they have the last few years to strong ratings.) The Firm has a 22 episode order and would run uninterrupted. OR they could move Community down to 10p where it is likely to do better than it is now against stronger competition (including another comedy – The Big Bang Theory) at 8p. Lots of people seem to think after last Spring’s experiment from NBC and ABC that comedies just don’t work at 10p but it’s worth noting that the NBC combo of 30 Rock and Outsourced did better than anything they have had in the timeslot since ER and including this fall’s Prime Suspect. At 10:30 they could either air 30 Rock or one of their other new comedies (BFF or Bent).
Some people have suggested NBC move Up All Night to this night, but at this point Up All Night is doing better by itself on Wed against strong competition than the Thu 8p comedies are and it’s bringing upgrades to a time period that has been troublesome for them for quite some time. So, unless they air UAN reruns on Thu for extra sampling, I don’t think they should move it now. (I think Wed at 8:30 they’ll either move Whitney there or air one of the new comedies – Bent/BFF. )
Back to Thu: If NBC has a combo of The Office/P&R/Community/30 Rock from 9-11p that’s all their critically acclaimed comedies back to back and it gives P&R and Community a chance to improve their current numbers and they can provide a solid lead in to the 11p local news with 30 Rock.
So,what do they do at 8? This is where they can take a swing to improve the night. They could slot Fear Factor there, which while not a comedy, is a male skewing show that might make some much-needed noise and might bring up the numbers of their male 18-34 skewing comedies that follow. Another option might be to air Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. This is a prank show and it still falls under the comedy header, especially with Betty White participating, so they’d be able to brand the entire Thursday lineup as a night of comedy. (I haven’t heard anything about the status of this show and it’s possible it didn’t come out great in production, but if it did, it might be a viable option).
The more I think about it, scheduling their big comedies from 9-11p and shaking up 8p might be the best way to go. Yes I realize some of these suggestions are somewhat unorthodox but when you’re in 4th place, it doesn’t hurt to try unorthodox things.
ABC – This is a little trickier. Say what you will about Grey’s Anatomy, but for an 8-year-old show it’s still kicking and is still creatively vibrant. It got a 3.6 last week (and that’s with no one in the demo watching ABC at 8p). It still gets the biggest drama boost with DVRs. I believe there will be a hiatus from Thanksgiving until at least January. Part of me briefly considered that ABC might rest it til March, run one of their new limited drama series for Jan/Feb and then run Grey’s uninterrupted from March til May. But then I reminded myself that would be utterly insane. Any new drama could crater, while Grey’s, as I just said, is still one of the strongest demo performers on the air. (Last week the only dramas higher in the demo was teflon NCIS at a 4.0 and Criminal Minds which only led by .2) Plus, ABC still commands good ad rates from advertisers for it, so there’s no way in hell ABC takes it off the air for 4 months (nor should they).
More likely is ABC might rest Private Practice either in Jan or March and slot one of their new dramas there, most likely Shonda Rhimes’s gripping Scandal. The big problem remains 8p. Some have suggested they schedule their buzzworthy new comedy Don’t Trust The Bitch in Apt 23 there (with Cougar Town). This won’t work for two reasons: 1) The content of those shows is too racy for 8p.2) Comedies are already doing very well to decent in this timeslot on other nets and this promising new show will get lost. One possibility is: Instead of airing a new drama in 10p, ABC slots those comedies there. It’s not ideal, but the problem is, there really isn’t another timeslot where these comedies can break out and won’t face other big comedies. If NBC doesn’t air comedies at 10p, this would be a good place for “Don’t Trust…” to break out after what I am sure will be an extensive promotional campaign from ABC.
Back to the big problem – 8p: I guess they could always air Wipeout for 8 weeks like last year. Problem is, its gets a 2.0 at most and I honestly feel running those shows during Winter and Summer is hurting the whole franchise. But ABC did order those Winter episodes and I suppose if it’s just confined to 8 weeks during the winter (as opposed to 9 months, like last year) then it could still remain somewhat special. But I also think ABC might need them for Tuesdays between DWTS cycles (might pair well with the male skewing comedies). They have a bunch of reality on the bench like Shark Tank and Secret Millionaire (which they might be saving for Sundays midseason or also the aforementioned Tuesday slot). They also have Celebrity Wife Swap which might garner some attention, although I can’t imagine it will command premium ad rates for Thursday night. Maybe ABC should just move Private Practice up to 8p (yes I know it’s not an ideal 8p show) which should prove to be the most compatible lead in to Grey’s and one that clearly shares the same female audience, and use the less competitive 10p hour for one of their hot new dramas or comedies. ABC is honestly harder to figure out and not all their shows have premiered yet, so it’s not settled where all their needs are. I do think that continuing to air Charlie’s Angels at 8p (it’s still even scheduled for Nov 3rd – sweeps, thought that might just be a placeholder for now) really doesn’t benefit them at all.
CBS – Probably the most likely to shake up Thu first and the most likely to benefit quickly from it. Person of Interest, while doing respectably, is still in 4th place in the demo. Last week with a TBBT lead in at 8:30 that garnered a 3.7, PoI only gained .1 from the previous week. CBS cancelled How To Be A Gentlemen for getting a 2.5. I don’t see CBS putting up with a 2.8 and 4th place on Thu at 9p for long. (They start off the night with a 4.5 and then are in 2’s the rest of the night.) I can actually see them moving PoI to Tuesday at 10p where it likely won’t do worse than Unforgettable and should be a better match with the male skewing NCIS twins. (Unforgettable might be an option for Friday). CBS will have 4 comedies here for sure by next season, But, I increasingly think they will make that move by January (or March at the latest).
Moving TBBT to 9p seems a no brainer. I could see a scenario where they air Rules of Engagement at 9:30, but my gut says CBS will move 2 Broke Girls to 9:30. Yes it’s a risk, as there is the argument that the reason why Mondays are so strong is because there is a strong show between the 8p and 9p hits. Still, I think 8p and 9p have clearly established they are rock solid and CBS could either slot the new Rob Schneider comedy at 8:30 OR just put How I Met Your Mother or 2 Broke Girls reruns there. I know CBS is not fond of using reruns on a regular basis but with the potential to have a 4 comedy lineup on Thu that would not only win the night but also boost the ratings of TBBT and 2 Broke Girls, I think they might do it. At 8p they can start off the night with a rerun of TBBT and follow it with Rules of Engagement. Barring a problem with them airing a rerun at 8p from Jan through May look at this lineup and tell me they won’t own Thursday: 8p – TBBT (R), 8:30 – Rules Of Engagement, 9p – TBBT, 9:30- 2 Broke Girls 10p – he Mentalist. Yes it’s somewhat risky for two nights but if it’s likely to succeed on any network, it will be on CBS. The last two risky moves they made were moving Survivor to Wednesday and The Big Bang Theory to Thursday (last season) and those continue to help each night tremendously.