Looking Toward the May Upfronts: Four Lineups on Our Fall Radar

The broadcast networks don’t announce their fall schedules until May. But as pilot season gets underway, they’re already taking a look at their current schedules to determine what shows they need to pickup as it relates to their available and otherwise troublesome time slots.

Earlier this week, we posted a similar rundown of six of these time slots. But because these issues aren’t just limited to specific time slots, below is a rundown of entire lineups that the broadcast networks need to take a look at as they put together their fall schedules:


ABC Sunday Nights (7-11pm)

ABC has struggled with this night since the end of Desperate Housewives in 2012. Though ratings had declined significantly in its final two seasons, Housewives, along with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at 8pm and Brothers & Sisters at 10pm, provided several seasons of scheduling stability that we haven’t seen since then — particularly in the 10pm hour.

Once Upon a Time, currently in its 6th season, started out as a solid 8pm anchor when it debuted in 2011. RevengeHousewives‘s time slot successor from 2012 to 2014, served as an effective lead-out for Once — though it was not as effective a 9pm tentpole as Housewives was even in its waning days. And after five post-B&S flops at 10pm over two seasons, Revenge took over that time slot for its final season (2014-2015).

Quantico, Revenge‘s time slot successor for the 2015-2016 season, performed well enough at 10pm in that first season to warrant a second. But with significant ratings declines this season, the show was recently moved to Monday nights at 10pm.

Much of Quantico‘s ratings decline had to do with a lack of lead-in support  — which the show overcame much better in its first season with the short-lived Blood & Oil and The Family than it did this season with the similarly low-rated Secrets & Lies.

Once returns in early March with newcomer Time After Time at 9pm and the third season of American Crime at 10pm. With ratings for Once still declining and Crime more critically-acclaimed than anything else, Time needs to breakout VERY quickly or the entire night — save for the long-running America’s Funniest Home Videos in the 7pm hour — will need a complete overhaul.

Three new family dramas should do it.


FOX Sunday Nights (7-10pm)

Having only one night of ratings success — Wednesdays with new series Lethal Weapon at 8pm and Empire at 9pm (the only two shows besides 24: Legacy currently averaging more than 5 million L+SD viewers), FOX is pretty much in trouble across the board.

And while we could go night-by-night about that, we’re focusing on Sunday nights for the purposes of this exercise as that has been kept largely intact (at least in terms of genre and format) for more than a decade despite its low ratings in recent seasons.

The Simpsons has served as the night’s 8pm anchor since 1994 with Family Guy as the 9pm tentpole since 2005. But fourteen shows have cycled through the 830pm slot since Malcolm in the Middle from 2000-2002 and fifteen through the 930pm slot since the second half-hour of The X-Files from 1996 to 2002 (so benchmarked because no show has since aired in either time slot as long).

Up until the last few seasons, most of these 830pm/930pm shows were animated to maintain the network’s Animation Domination branding for the night. But even with live-action comedies populating those time slots since then, it might be time to revamp the night even further by reintroducing an hourlong drama to it.

As for the 7pm hour, which typically gets turned over to animation encores after football, FOX is wasting originals of Bob’s Burgers in it that could better serve another night. And until FOX is able to rebuild the night, they could do no worse bringing back World’s Funniest or something comparable.

But whatever they do with the night, more Gordon Ramsey would just be lazy.


NBC Thursday Nights (8-11pm)

This night has been a curiosity to me since it took an expectedly precipitous ratings fall after Friends ended in 2004, but then unexpectedly show no signs of ever bouncing back. Things did start to come together in early 2015 when The Blacklist took over the 10pm time slot and finally brought some ratings success back to the night despite the rest of the lineup.

Last season, The Blacklist shifted up to 9pm and Shades of Blue took over the 10pm slot. This season, Chicago Med took over the 9pm slot — pushing The Blacklist back to 10pm. While Blue showed some signs of life — particularly in DVR lift, so has Med (which is probably why Blue was sent to Sunday nights for its second season).

NBC is attempting an hour of comedies at 8pm for the first time in three seasons with Superstore and The Good Place/Powerless — but to moderate success in comparison to MedBlacklist and Blue.

So NBC needs a stronger comedy to pair with Superstore if it’s going to maintain that hour of comedies — or turn the night back over to dramas. This might be a better option given that NBC dramas are outnumbering NBC comedies by more than 3 to 1 and collectively outperforming them by 51%.


NBC Friday Nights (8-11pm)

With the long-running Grimm in its final season, newcomer Emerald City‘s ratings down 30% from its January premiere and Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon questionable given Cannon’s current issues with the network, NBC is going to have to program the night better than by just running two hours of Dateline and a revolving door of programming in the third hour.

But if CBS and ABC can do it and still draw some viewership, so can NBC. 

Crime dramas on the whole are doing much better than anything else on broadcast television right now — which is what drives CBS’s success on the night (and across the board).

And NBC currently has two options with Chicago Justice and Shades of Blue if they don’t do well on Sundays (though they’ll both factor in post-airdate lift) as well as with Timeless (should it be renewed).


Source: TV Series Finale

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