Unfortunately, Jimmy Kimmel was not really joking when he said at ABC’s upfront presentation this month that most of the network’s new fall shows won’t be back for a second season. So with the broadcast nets struggling in general to launch new hits every fall, executives are finally smartening up to the idea that fi nding ways to preserve and grow their existing franchises is just as crucial as finding new shows.
While more than two dozen new series will join the networks’ schedules this fall, network execs say that the schedules in many ways are as much about the care and feeding of returning shows as smashing all the rookies into each other for premiere week.
The scheduling bombshell of last year’s upfront was not a new show, but CBS’ shift of The Big Bang Theory to Thursdays (this year’s upfront went off without such a shocker). Indeed, without a new breakout hit, the story of this season was arguably the resurgence of American Idol, following its move one day later in the week.
But there were plenty of scheduling moves that will leave some well-known shows either in new slots, or facing new competition. Here are four returning shows that stand to gain or lose the most from this fall’s scheduling changes.
THE SING-OFF NBC, Mondays at 8
NBC execs thought it was time that its little December success story joined the reality heavy hitters with a full-season format this fall. The Sing-Off’s December runs the past two years performed solidly with little promotion, prompting TV writers to pen headlines about NBC—gasp!—winning the 18-49 demo without the words Sunday Night Football.
If the full-season format works, NBC will have twin musical hits in The Sing-Off and The Voice that it can schedule season-long like Fox is doing with The X Factor and American Idol. But if the gamble fails, NBC has a huge hole in its schedule to fill (The Sing-Off occupies two hours on Monday nights). It also loses the option of having a solid performer waiting in the wings for December, when the other networks will be running mostly repeats.
DANCING WITH THE STARS ABC, Mondays at 8
Same time slot, new frontier. ABC’s unscripted behemoth faces its first real challenger in some time in Fox’s Terra Nova, whose launch anticipation is topped only by its monstrous special effects budget. Fox promises to promote the heck out of the dinosaur drama and was so confident in its broad appeal it chose it to lead off its Monday night. Undoubtedly, the premiere will do a big number, then it’s up to the show to be good enough to keep viewers around. The Sing-Off also stands to be a competitor if it repeats the success of its December runs, threatening to steal reality-loving eyeballs of the same mostlyfemale demo that flocks to DWTS.
But the pendulum could just as easily swing the other way if DWTS books a headlinegrabbing cast or Sing-Off fails to deliver in a full-season format. CBS is also potentially vulnerable at the 9 p.m. hour with newly cast Ashton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men. In either case, DWTS will have to work a lot harder this fall to keep its stronghold on Mondays as the whole night looks to get more competitive across the board. CBS’ sitcoms have always been strong, but Fox and NBC finally have big swings in a night where they haven’t been able to keep much alive in the past.
THE GOOD WIFE
CBS, Sundays at 9
With few holes to fill, CBS’ strategy is about improving time periods for the most-watched network. CBS brass felt they could be doing better Tuesdays at 10, especially with strong lead-ins from the NCIS siblings, and hence moved The Good Wife to Sundays.
The 10 p.m. hour has been tricky for all the networks, but Good Wife will face even stiffer competition on Sundays at 9, where it will go up against ABC’s female-friendly Desperate Housewives and the ratings colossus of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, not to mention the buzzy dramas that occupy the hour on cable (like HBO’s BoardwalkEmpire).
Make no mistake, CBS loves the critical praise and awards Good Wife receives, but the bar sits just a bit higher for success at CBS than many of the other networks. Execs are planning a change in marketing strategy for the move to Sunday, and hope it will help the show gain viewers that never found it on Tuesdays. If it works, Good Wife may finally have ratings that measure up to its accolades.
PARENTHOOD NBC, Tuesdays at 10
CBS opened up the 10 p.m. hour on Tuesday with its move of The Good Wife, leaving room for NBC’s Parenthood, which appeals to the same type of viewer, to grab some share. Parenthood won’t be without competition, though —ABC’s Body of Proof debuted strongly in midseason, beating sophomore Good Wife several times, and CBS will sub in its latest iteration of its alwayspopular detective dramas with Unforgettable.
Parenthood gets heavy DVR viewing, adding an average 40% to its 18-49 rating when liveplus- seven-day results are factored in. But for better or for worse, we all still talk about the overnights, and with The Good Wife gone, Parenthood has one less excuse to not deliver.
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