With fall premieres winding down (we’re down to the CW’s Reign, NBC’s Dracula, and whatever FOX has saved for after baseball), let’s take a moment and see how the major networks fared in a fall where every network (even CBS had question marks).
So how did the major networks fare this fall? Well it was mixed to say the least with each network having some success on their schedule, but also with a number of unanswered question marks in the schedule remaining that way, this will become quite apparent as we break things down network by network.
ABC: ABC seemed to have one of the more ambitious strategies for the new fall season, blowing up it’s Dancing with the Stars and Extreme Makeover Tuesdays in order to pave the way for new scripted material. The anchor show on that night, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a success, holding down the number three drama slot in the ratings. The rest of the night, however, has been an unmitigated disaster with the comedy hour struggling, and Lucky 7 registering so nonexistently on everyone’s radar that the show got the dubious honor of being the first show axed of the year (two episodes in, typically reserved for the Do No Harms of the world). I wonder if part of this is scheduling related, as it seems weird to pair up a show that will likely do well with males 18-49 with a two family comedies and a slice of life drama and expect audiences to stay from your massively hyped lead in. Elsewhere on the schedule, ABC has had a number of flops including Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (doing horribly in the ratings) and Super Fun Night.
CBS: The last remaining network juggernaut maintains that position for another year, and does so again on the back of it’s veteran series. However, it too struggled with it’s newer offerings (almost all of which were comedies this year). We Are Men also received a two-and-out, The Crazy Ones is bleeding viewers week to week, and Mom’s numbers have not been particularly successful. There has been one new success story for CBS, however, and it comes in the form of the Will Arnett vehicle The Millers, which takes full advantage of its’ Big Bang Theory lead in. While the Tiffany network seems in very strong shape in the short term, it can not be pleased with its’ long term picture.
FOX: Fox continues what seems to be a major trend across all four networks this year: success on the drama front, with serious questions on the comedy side of the schedule. While Sundays continue to chug along with the Animation Domination block, we can already see that Seth McFarlane’s cache is starting to run out of steam with the network. American Dad is being scuttled off to TBS, The Cleveland Show saw the cancellation ax last year, and his new offering Dads feels like an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately, that poison has run all the way through Fox’s Tuesday comedy block, as freshman Brooklyn Nine-Nine and sophomore The Mindy Project both also have sagging ratings on Tuesdays (this is a shame, as I particularly like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and feel it got hurt by drawing Agents as direct competition). However, Fox has succeeded in shoring up its’ dramas, adding Sleepy Hollow as a success story as it has already been renewed for a second season (no back-order however in order to make room for The Following).
NBC: Last year, NBC looked for success by following a strong two prong strategy: using The Voice to set up successful dramas, and making it’s comedy as lifeless and watered down as possible in order to reboot the line-up. The drama prong, succeeded, while the comedy side ended with every new show getting canceled and the network relying on decidedly not generic Community and Parks and Recreation to hold the fort for another year. This year, they went back to the same well– with the same results. The Blacklist, which followed The Voice on Mondays scored the first back-order of the year while the comedy block is once again in shambles. Parks and Recreation, thrown to the wolves against the Big Bang Goliath is down in the ratings, while The Michael J. Fox show is the only other show averaging above a 1.0. The biggest hole however, is at 8:30, where Welcome to the Family failed to be welcomed into America’s homes and is effectively on death watch until NBC can pull Community (which has quickly turned into NBC’s Rules of Engagement as a show that solely gets renewed to plug holes) from the bench to stabilize ratings. Regardless, after the past two years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see NBC try something new next year, possibly swapping it’s comedy Thursday with it’s drama Wednesday to hold the fort, because this is not a sustainable business model for the peacock.
The CW: It seems weird that the network I have to most to say positively about is the CW. While this may in fact be because they do not have a single comedy on their fall schedule (did I mention this has been a particularly atrocious year for comedy?), I think it’s predominantly because they know what they’re aiming for and one of the stronger premieres of the season in The Tomorrow People. Their other big debut, Reign hits Thursday (i’ll be reviewing it here at Manhattan Digest, likely will be up Friday afternoon), so theoretically the CW gets an incomplete, but is already miles ahead of where they were last spring when they stuck us with Cult.