With the Olympic break gutting away many premieres for the next two weeks (the one notable return I’ll discuss later this week), let’s take the opportunity to see how exactly the major networks (and cable) have been faring midway through the season.
ABC: It has to have been a fairly disappointing year overall for ABC after the wholesale changes they made over the summer (especially on Tuesday nights) only to see no real advancement in positioning relative to the other networks in addition to an alarmingly high number of new shows tanking with incredible speed.
What’s working: On the positive side, ABC’s Tuesday revamp seems to have taken some hold, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D being the strongest non-NCIS show on Tuesdays. Similarly it’s lead outs The Goldbergs and (especially) Trophy Wife have attracted some critical acclaim, even if Trophy Wife is struggling in the ratings. Fridays, with their mix of Shark Tank and family comedies also seem to be a strong point for the network, seeing how reruns of Shark Tank have become the network’s go to emergency fill over the past year.
What’s not working: Outside of Tuesdays from 8-10, ABC’s newer shows have been an unmitigated disaster. Once Upon A Time In Wonderland was not only painfully cheesy but stuck in the Thursday at 8 death slot from the get go. The Assets tanked so horribly it got eaten by the Shark Tank in two episodes. Super Fun Night ended up being not only a bad fit despite having a bankable star and a Modern Family lead in, but also evident from minute one why CBS didn’t even bother to pick up the pilot.
The biggest hole for ABC, however has been that third hour on Tuesdays. If Thursday at 8 is known as the alphabet’s death slot, then Tuesdays at 10 have to be it’s stillborn slot, as not one but two new premieres (Lucky 7 and Killer Women) have died incredibly swift, painful deaths. A good chunk of this is likely related to the fact that the network continually insists on putting understated shows immediately behind two of the most cartoonish hours on television (I don’t see how anyone could buy Trophy Wife as a viable lead in for a grim slice-of-life drama like Lucky 7).
Overall Prognosis: It feels like ABC is swiftly becoming the new NBC, only without all the amusing backstage drama that makes mocking the peacock so much fun, with it’s often bizarre scheduling decisions and inability to use it’s anchors to promote it’s other shows. There are a lot of new shows being rolled out after the Olympics, so there is still one last chance to salvage what would otherwise be a rough year.
CBS: The realities of network TV have slowly been applying to CBS after a few years of ultimately ending up in their own orbit. For the first time in a decade, CBS actually seems fairly vulnerable, as it’s numbers are much more in line with the other major networks.
What’s working: Despite all the doom and gloom I mentioned in the opening paragraph, it’s important to remember that CBS still has two of the most venerable juggernauts on broadcast airwaves in NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. The network still has a fairly deep bench all around whether it’s on the comedy side (Mike and Molly), or the drama end (in a most dire scenario, the network could easily spackle with most of it’s Friday or Sunday dramas). The best move CBS has made actually hits next year: it’s acquisition of half of the Thursday Night Football package. This move gives the network eight weeks of fairly steady ratings and allows it to debut it’s comedy lineup right in the heart of November sweeps, where high ratings matter most.
What’s not working: Mondays at 10 have become have a gaping hole in the schedule for CBS. Much like ABC’s Tuesday anchors, it’s pretty clear that the network can’t find a good fit for the slot and is using it as a dumping ground for mediocre-to-poor shows like Hostages and Intelligence. This is a huge problem as Mondays are quickly becoming a bright spot for other networks (particularly NBC and Fox), so with the removal of Monday anchor How I Met Your Mother in march, CBS’s viewership could erode most drastically on that night.
Speaking of erosion, it’s a real problem CBS has to start worrying about in the future. I’ve mentioned numerous times how CBS’s line up is starting to really show it’s age (think about its’ core shows and most of them date back to the Bush administration with half of them being in his first term and Survivor actually launching while Clinton was still president). Unfortunately, the network cannot seem to find new anchors to replace it’s existing ones: The Crazy Ones is not pulling it’s weight and neither is Mom. With the likely removal of Two and A Half Men to go with the end of How I Met Your Mother, CBS will only have Big Bang to prop up it’s newer comedies and will have to rely on shows like 2 Broke Girls , Mike and Molly, and the still fairly untested The Millers to carry the ratings load.
Overall Prognosis: CBS still rules the roost, but it also still needs to find some shows to carry it through the future, as even its’ juggernauts slowly become fossils (Big Bang Theory is in season seven, NCIS in season twelve, CSI in season fourteen.). That being said, the network is still making the right moves to continue to buy more time, hoping the network can strike gold (particularly on the comedy side of the ledger) at least once more.
Next Time: Part two of this series comes next week. Later this week, I take some time to look forward to season two of Netflix’s House of Cards.