I have many thoughts on the ABC midseason schedule but I’ll start with the one that most perplexes me. ABC is currently getting clobbered on Tuesday and with NBC being Voice-less til April and FOX 2 hour comedies underperforming and Vegas being a miss (despite CBSs B.S. that it’s not), ABC had the opportunity to shake up the night and possibly be #2 after CBS.
I have suggested how ABC has this big Tue opportunity a few times this fall like here Shark Tank To Tue 9p and Guessing ABC Midseason Sked. NBC and FOX comedies are underperforming at 9 and the NBC comedies will likely tumble even further once Betty White leads into them as opposed to the The Voice. NCIS:LA is down vs. a year ago even though they have zero competition now and with the other 3 nets chasing young comedy viewers to little effect, they have the adult drama audience all to themselves. Yet, they aren’t even cracking a 3.0 regualry even following the number one drama on TV (in total viewers). Shark Tank has been getting 7 million and a 2.0 on Friday. Imagine what this growing show could do on a more viewed night. Once the Voice leaves for 3 months there is no reality competition on the night. That’s a big hole. This is a huge opportunity for ABC. At 8p they very smartly have scheduled cooking competition The Taste. But I think they should have followed it with Shark Tank at 9. At 10p, an hour that no broadcast net is getting a 2.0 (on Cable 10p Tue is a timeslot will see Justified in place of Sons Of Anarchy come Jan, or in ratings terms, a 1.0, at best, for FX as opposed to a 2.2), they could have scheduled a new drama, likely Zero Hour, a more male skewing show that could retain many of Shark Tanks viewers.
Instead, ABC has decided to leave their severely underperforming comedies at 9. Now I say this as a huge fan of Happy Endings, but leaving a show that is barely getting a 1.0 at 9p, makes zero sense. It’s like throwing up a white flag. It reminds me of when NBC skedded Rock Center at 10p Thu last Spring. My initial thought was what a nice gift to give your competitors who are most likely celebrating amidst their shock. Actually, I think this is worse because at least that show was scheduled at 10. To leave these 2 comedies at 9p, the anchor of the night, is just ridiculous from a programming perspective and I imagine their competitors are similarly poppoing a bottle of champagne. They are chasing the same young single cam audience that the other comedies on NBC and FOX are chasing to better results (although no one is doing anything to celebrate). Why not put Shark Tank here where there is no other reality show? It would make a nice tandem with The Taste and satisfy an audience not currently being served on Tuesday.
I was not surprised to see ABC pick up Body Of Proof last year. Last Spring I said how can they not renew a show that was getting 10 million viewers (ABC gonna renew BoP). It would be absurd. But it was getting a 1.9 and 10 million following DWTS. That seems to be its ceiling under the best of circumstances. With every show down this year and anemic rated comedies leading into it, it likely wont do better than a mid 1.0. This is the hour you schedule a new drama to take advantage of the hole, not return a a show that was on the bubble last year. Thursday 8p would have been a fine place for Body Of Proof where a)there is no other procedural in a slot that used to house Bones b) has two of TVs biggest hits and launching any kind of new show there would be silly in Jan and c) would lead in well to 2 other dramas. The one night ABC is floundering but has a chance to be a player (Tue) and they basically just surrender from 9-11. Maybe they should just brand the night as “We Surrender Tuesdays”. Sorry for being overly dramatic but I just don’t get it… at all. From a programming point of view, it defies explanation, unless their competitors were at the scheduling board.
I did suggest ABC move Nashville to Sunday. But in this respect I get ABCs reticence not to. There’s no guarantee it will do any better on Sunday and who knows, maybe the disruption that comes with a move would hurt it. Plus then it’s back to the drawing board again on Wed at 10 and Chicago Fire is doing better than any new NBC entry in that slot in years. With Nashville Wed at 10 they know they have at least a high 1, low 2 show that brings in big DVR gains. So I get leaving Nashville there. What I don’t get is scheduling Zero Hour Thursday at 8. I was all for ABC putting their best new drama there this fall and they did and it failed. So I really don’t understand why they would put another new drama here (and one not nearly as strong as LR in my opinion), especially with American Idol a far bigger threat than X Factor. Like I said above, this is where BoP could have gone and Zero Hour would have had a much better chance with very little competition on Tue at 10.
I have previously said that I think Red Widow after Revenge is too much (like sci-fi shows after Lost) but again, I do understand ABCs desire to try it there, plus it will get a huge Oscar Push. It’s hardly as perplexing as the decision to surrender Tue from 9-11 and throw Zero Hour to the wolves.
So to recap: ABC Friday comedies are currently getting higher numbers in total viewers and the demo than the comedies they have as their Tue anchor until March. Their Friday schedule is likely to remain more potent than their Tue schedule is for most of the first quarter of the year and the crazy thing is, the other nets are hardly that strong on Tue from 9-11. The only 10p slot anywhere on the TV schedule without a dominant hit and over this 10 month season, ABC has will not have used it to launch one of their new dramas. How does that make any sense? There is ample opportunity. Instead ABC Tue from 9-11 is likely to remain very low rated until March, at least from 9-11. Zero Hour is practically doomed before it premieres. I’m reminded of the famous quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.
In my humble opinion, I think ABC in general gets a bum rap. They regularly take more ambitious swings with shows like The River & Last Resort than other nets that regularly clone procedurals (successfully) do. They get dinged by Nielsen more than any other net with ridiculous drops and weird aberrations out of nowhere. The media seem to love to highlight their flops and mitigate their successes. But it’s moves like these from ABC themselves that keep the network from truly ever ascending to the top. It’s like they step on their own toe. Truly perplexing.