Fall Preview: 1 Big Question For Each of The Big 4:

Will The Big Bang Theory be TVs #1 show?

Definitely. The Big Bang Theory has been one of the biggest hits on TV the last few seasons but its numbers kicked in to another gear beginning last January. It’s most likely due to the fact that it went into syndication last fall in evening fringe and late night and on cable on TBS (where it runs in blocks 3 nights of the week).  Last fall the hour premiere of TBBT (2 eps) was a full point behind the Modern Family 1 hour premiere in the demo (MF had a 6.1). That disparity continued through the fall. But somewhere in the middle of the season after a few months of incessant reruns had clearly introduced TBBT to a bunch of new fans, the show grew even higher. It regularly beat American Idol on Thursday and even in the depressed viewing levels of the 8p hour in the spring due to DST returning, was getting high 4’s (March 29th for example, it had a 4.7). Reruns this summer on CBS many weeks have been mid 2’s, numbers that would be considered good at 8p for a first run show on most other nets. Many nights the reruns on TBS are the highest rated shows on cable (and even beat many summer network numbers).  I will be shocked if TBBT isn’t up big this fall, especially relative to last fall. (It beat Idol regularly and X Factor is no Idol). I’m gonna guess the premiere gets in the vicinity of a 6.0, a big number especially compared to last season’s. I think there are a lot of new fans of this show now that weren’t aware of it a year ago.  So I’m assuming it will be the shows highest rated premiere in its history and I expect the numbers to hold up almost as high all through the fall.

Bottom Line: CBS in general is an anomaly.  Their shows regularly grow out of nowhere in year 7 (like HIMYM did last season). In this case, this show is already a monster and all indications are it’s gonna grow even more… in year 6.

 

What number does Last Resort have to premiere with to be considered a success (or at least not cause for alarm)?

I figured this was the best place to ask this question as the biggest obstacle facing this impressively produced Shawn Ryan show, is its timeslot and competition (namely TBBT). That’s not to say I think it’s the wrong place to air it. On the contrary, I have gone on record saying ABC should put their best new drama in this slot, as every other genre is represented well in this hour and they have a very strong drama at 9 (Grey’s) which last spring was second on the night behind TBBT, even more impressive considering it’s going into season 9. As strong as Grey’s ended last season, ABC has to plan for the future of the night now, like they did last year with Once Upon A Time breaking out on Sunday.  The difference here is that the biggest show on TV is airing against it. Plus CBS put their second best comedy performer on after it this season (2.5 Men) and there should be far less erosion out of it than there has been with various new comedies the last 2 seasons. While X Factor is no Idol, there will likely be initial tune in to check out Britney Spears. So unlike last year when OUAT debuted a month into the season and where its biggest scripted competition wasn’t getting remotely close to a 5.0, Last Resort has a bigger challenge. I imagine ABC also considered starting LR a few weeks later, but this would prove practically impossible for LR to get any traction (as opposed to the OUAT launch) since there are stronger options on the other nets here and it would give people a chance to settle into those viewing patterns, plus with preemption’s for a Presidential debate week 3 and CMA’s week 6, there wouldn’t be enough consecutive runs of it with Grey’s (LR will run 5 weeks consecutively before being preempted for CMAs). Plus it makes the most sense to premiere it the first week in tandem with the season premiere of Grey’s which is wrapping up a big cliffhanger and coming off a highly rated finale.

Realistically speaking, it’s not likely to premiere anywhere close to a 4.0 like Flash Forward did a few years ago (but to me this pilot is infinitely stronger, plus considering the people involved, I don’t expect it to fall apart creatively in ep 2).  But what would be considered a good number to premiere with considering its strong and steady competition? My guess is a 2.5. Outside of Flash Forward’s early and fleeting success in this slot 3 years ago, this timeslot hasn’t seen a 2.0 for most new ABC dramas here. The Deep End couldn’t crack a 2.0 in its premiere. My Generation debuted to a 1.6 two years ago. Charlie’s Angels and Missing both debuted with a 2.1 and never saw that number again. I think considering that TBBT will produce the biggest number this hour has seen in years this fall, a 2.5 will be considered good for a self-starting new drama at 8p on ABC (that comes with no pre sold title like CA). Oh and everyone saying that it’s a horrible slot and no show will work for ABC Thu 8p: You were likely saying that about Revenge’s prospects last fall. A bad slot is a bad slot until it isn’t, until the right show airs there. The difference here is that unlike Revenge, Last Resort has formidable competition. Still, I think it’s the right place on ABCs sked for it to air. It’s certainly the strongest drama to air there. ABC isn’t unrealistic and expecting a mind blowing number or even a number close to OUAT’s premiere.

Bottom Line: If it can hang in the 2.0 vicinity for the ensuing fall weeks, that will be considered a success for ABC. Critically, this is ABCs strongest drama option in the hour in years and it’s not unfathomable to see it grow. So I’m thinking a 2.5 for its premiere is a good number for Last Resort.

 

Will FOX be up Tue-Thu?

Despite the lack of coverage, last spring outside of American Idol, none of FOXs scripted shows were getting above a mid 2. Granted DST affects everyone badly but even in the early 8p hour, Once Upon A Time was able to not get lower than a 2.9 and its last 4 weeks of the season were all a 3.0 or above. Early mega breakout New Girl an hour later, was getting 2.3/2.4/2.5 as the season ended. I do think New Girl should be up some this fall, but do I see it getting 4’s like its opening 3 weeks did last year? Not likely. But frankly it doesn’t need to. (It’s clearly a hit and grows at least 1.5 in DVR.)

I think FOX has a strong drama option for midseason with The Following, and I imagine FOX just doesn’t want to fall apart on Monday this fall. Anything in the 2.0 vicinity should be fine for them. While The Mob Doctor is not remotely assured that, I think it’s their gambles for Tue-Thu that will determine if they have a successful fall or not. With the addition of Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project, FOX definitely has a very cohesive live action comedy block for the first time in years. If New Girl ended stronger, ratings wise, I’d expect a huge season 2 bump and I’d feel better about at least one of those comedies breaking out. I’ll assume New Girl will get some sort of bump (and a strong one 18-34) and at least be in the low 3’s. It’s not crazy to assume Mindy can hold much of that lead. Raising Hope hasn’t proven to be a huge starter at 8 – in the spring it was getting a high 1. It’s not crazy to assume to it can get a low 2 in the fall (which I’m sure would be fine for FOX) and for Ben and Kate to build a bit going into New Girl. Should all that happen I assume FOX will be happy and let the comedies grow though the season. The problem for FOX at 8 is they have stronger competition than they did last year as The Voice is a much stronger young option than The Biggest Loser. It’s possible The Voice will give New Girl more of a boost than Go On, but might hurt 8p. Still, I think it was a smart gamble of FOX. At the very least they have an easily promotable night with the shows flowing into each other. Glee would undoubtedly be down even more Tue at 8 this season especially opposite The Voice. They don’t need the comedies to produce a huge number to be successful. They just need it to maintain or grow.  I can see them carving out a nice 18-34 niche on the night.

The bigger question is X Factor. I expect some early Britney tune in and I’m sure FOX is thrilled that Demi Lovato has a huge song at radio for the first time in her career just as the show is launching. But as we learned last year, there is no guarantee that the judges will get people excited about this show. Plus this genre is so over saturated now. Even American Idol, though still huge, proved somewhat vulnerable last season and  there is no guarantee the other shows wont continue to decline. Plus this season X will immediately follow two nights of The Voice, a show that was stronger than X Factor in the ratings and one whose panel is very assured and liked. Even with Britney tune in, its possible by Wednesday viewers will have said I already watched this for the last 2 nights. Plus the blind auditions on the Voice are far more compelling than anything on the X Factor and after two nights of that next week, that might be very apparent to viewers. Still it’s hard not to assume the show won’t do well 18-34 and even if it’s a low 2 to mid 3 in the 18-49, that’s a win for FOX as that’s their only show on Wed and can make their average for the night very competitive or even #1.

A bigger question is how Glee will do out of X Factor on Thu. It shouldn’t be hard at all for it to be up versus what Touch ended the season with out of Idol, so in that way it could conceivably be in the plus column. Plus, as much as I think it’s absurd for Glee to do another all Britney episode, synergistically, airing out of The X Factor, it’s pretty smart. I think of the 3 nights, this night has the biggest opportunity to be down from last year when X was airing for 2 hours on many of the opening weeks. Plus this would be night 4 of consecutive music shows and it’s a result show. Again, Idol was getting beaten by TBBT, this should be beaten by a bigger margin. Still FOX can easily hold up enough and be strong enough 18-34 that it should do okay. But the first 2 Glee weeks (and Britney ep) will air before CBS/ABC show up. Plus it’s worthy to note that Glee’s season finale aired at 9p out of the American Idol performance finale and still couldn’t crack a 3.0. That coupled with Glee dropping every year makes it likely it could be 3rd in the hour.

Bottom Line: I think FOX PR should be able to highlight pluses on all three nights (though Thu may prove tougher), plus 18-34 should be okay. No one ever mentions the enviable position FOX is in with only have to program 2 nights of the week, when comparing their performance to other nets, but as usual that should help them. Still there’s no guarantee X doesn’t fall even more and the overall singing competitions (save for IDOL possibly) don’t completely cannibalize each other till someone reinvents them or they get a break. After a just concluded AGT, it’s possible the most enticing and fresh option for viewers will be the return of their beloved scripted hits.

 

Can NBC launch a real hit?

NBC has Sunday Night Football, numbers wise the actual #1 show on TV. That coupled with 2 nights of The Voice will help NBC be up over last fall. Even if The Voice continues to drop, it will be up dramatically over The Sing Off and The Biggest Loser.

I think The Voice will hold up stronger than X for a few reasons: Frankly it’s a better show and the fact that it airs first in the week helps. Plus it’s fresher in viewer’s minds having ended in May as opposed to last December. Whether you like one, both, or none, I think even the most ardent detractor of the Voice and biggest supporter of X will admit that The Voice is much more confident in who it is as a show. On a superficial level, the fact that its entire cast is returning intact attests to that.

So the question is can NBC launch a new hit? There’s no question that they are making sure their new shows are getting sampled. Between post Olympic airings and using their biggest entertainment show to lead into them, getting their shows sampled isn’t a problem for NBC and I commend them for smartly scheduling those and repeating their pilots enough to get as many viewers as possible. If viewers reject these shows (and there’s no guarantee they won’t in the long run) it won’t be for lack of seeing them. They just didn’t like them. But they definitely will have been viewed. Let’s face it: Go On had a 5.6 in its post Olympic premiere. No new show in recent memory had that kind of audience for a premiere.

I think NBC made a very smart move yesterday in giving the post premiere of The Voice to The New Normal as opposed to another ep of Grimm that wont likely move the needle at this point. The New Normal was gonna premiere after Go On’s second ep next week. Now it will follow the premiere of NBCs highest rated entertainment show and only face drama reruns on CBS/ABC. Once again, it will get sampled by a TV audience. I think that’s smart because frankly I think it’s their strongest comedy option. Yes, Ryan Murphy shows tend to go off the rails quickly and there are some issues with the pilot, but for the most part it’s a nice, sweet and funny family comedy that’s fresh. (It would have fit well on ABCs Wed lineup and that’s clearly why they bid for it). Plus Ali Adler co created it and she’s a strong writer. I didn’t understand why NBC felt Go On was the more accessible show, (other than Matthew Perry’s star power and comic cops, it feels a bit more niche-ey to me) because to me, The New Normal is their most mass appeal show.

It seems clear the  plan to leave Thu intact was to use the stronger three nights of the week to launch and protect the new offerings they care most about and I can honestly see The New Normal eventually becoming their Thu 9p anchor (possibly paired with 1600 Penn later this season, or with Mike Fox’s show next). Obviously it’s way too premature to predict that, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that might be their overall hope. Right now it’s a very good bridge to the under-rated Parenthood.

NBC doesn’t need these shows to do more than a mid 2 to be considered a success and it’s not unfathomable to see that happen. Out of the 3 comedies at 9:30 I wouldn’t be shocked to see The New Normal carve out a nice niche.

Revolution is a risk as it’s another big mythology show. Still, it should be more mass appeal than Smash was. While it follows many of the same tropes as the mythology shows that have preceded it, I think the pilot is better than The Event (Giancarlo Esposito scenes alone do that, but overall its less all over the place) and if subsequent eps hold up creatively, with a strong lead in and cop procedurals facing it, I could see it carving out a decent 18-34 niche. Then again, those cop procedurals have large fan bases and large overall audiences. Plus shows like this remain creatively strong or people flee quickly and in this case there are two strong options on the other broadcast nets. In actuality it just needs a mid to low 2.0 at 10 to be considered successful. With a strong lead in and providing it doesn’t collapse creatively, it’s not that hard to achieve that. Smash did it for most of its run.

Bottom Line: I’m still going with The New Normal as NBCs strongest option for success. If The Voice holds up and they launch even one comedy like The New Normal to be a real hit, that’s a major success for NBC.

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One Response to Fall Preview: 1 Big Question For Each of The Big 4:

  1. Pingback: AMAs Numbers Are Lastest Big Ratings Drop That Defy Explanation: | Random Musings from a BigTVfan

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