The Fall 2017 Network Broadcast Schedules: What They Did Wrong

The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and the CW) recently unveiled their fall schedules with the typical ballyhoo — and nothing worth bally or hooing about.

falltvgrid2017-v6

Here is what they all did wrong:

We’ll pick on ABC first. I honestly have no idea what they’re thinking.

  • Cancelling Last Man Standing and with it, an average of 6.41 million L+SD viewers (8.06m in L+7) for a FRIDAY night show. They cited a strategic departure from comedies on Friday nights, but I call bullshit because they could have moved the show to another time slot — perhaps Tuesdays at 9pm to strengthen the Tuesday comedy lineup or Sundays at 8pm to launch a new comedy hour where they haven’t had any since the 1989-1990 TV season (albeit unsuccessfully, but that was a long time ago). Either way, if ABC really wanted to keep the show, they would have found a way regardless of star Tim Allen’s assumed salary demands (or his politics) — and he wouldn’t have been “blindsided” by the cancellation.
  • Relocating Black-ish, the most compatible lead-out for Modern Family that ABC has had — even moreso than time slot replacement American Housewife. While I do believe that Black-ish can serve as an effective tentpole for Tuesday nights, I don’t fully see the purpose behind this move beyond pairing it with The Mayor simply because one of its executive producers is a recurring player on Black-ish (or because both shows have predominantly black casts). But if you’re going to use Black-ish to help launch a new series, it would have made more sense to pick up its spinoff College-ish and pair it with its parent series instead of sending it off to its horribly-named corporate sibling Freeform.
  • After several years of failed and otherwise declining dramas on Sunday nights, a revamp of the night was in order. But a long-running game show leading into a recently-revived game show leading into a long-running reality show leading into a new scripted drama doesn’t make the most of the opportunity for such a revamp. I would suggest America’s Funniest Home Videos at 7pm, an hour of comedies at 8pm (perhaps Last Man Standing and the also-cancelled The Real O’Neals or newcomers Alex, Inc. and Splitting Up Together), an established drama at 9pm (perhaps the final season of Scandal — which would unfortunately break up TGIT, but give How to Get Away with Murder a stronger lead-in by shifting it up an hour to 9pm into a new drama at 10pm) into Ten Days in the Valley at 10pm would make for a better lineup.
  • Holding back Alex, Inc.Splitting Up TogetherQuanticoThe Crossing and For the People instead of To Tell the Truth and Shark Tank — which could both be plugged in at any other time to fill programming holes. It just makes no sense.

Moving on to CBS — which has the most stable schedule, but…

  • Last season, they moved Madam Secretary from 8pm where it ranked in the Nielsen Top 15 to 9pm (in place of the departed The Good Wife) where it ranked in the Top 20. Next season, they’re pushing it back again — this time to 10pm. Why they don’t just leave well enough alone is beyond me.
  • Last season, they moved NCIS: Los Angeles from Mondays at 10pm where it was ranked in the Nielsen Top 25 to Sundays at 8pm where, despite my concerns about it airing at 8pm for the first time, actually shot back into the Top 15. So next season, they’re pushing it back to 9pm. Why they don’t just leave well enough alone is beyond me.
  • With two well-established series on Sundays, they decide to use a new one to lead off the night at 8pm instead of using the two established series to lead into the new one at 10pm in place of the held back Elementary. Granted, it will lead out of the venerable 60 Minutes, but it won’t do as well there as its predecessors.
  • With that in mind, Criminal Minds has aired on Wednesdays at 10pm for its entire run so far (12 seasons and counting) where it has ranked in the Top 20 for the last nine seasons and the Top 30 before that. Why it’s being pushed back to 10pm to make room for a new series to lead into it instead of the other way around is beyond me.

FOX had the most work to do, but didn’t do any of it.

  • With Lethal Weapon as their top new show last season, you would think they would have picked up a similarly lighthearted drama. But The Gifted seems more in the vein of the declining Gotham and should actually be paired with it, and The Orville seems a bit too high concept to be as successful as the more broadly-premised Weapon.
  • It’s long past time to for them revamp their Sunday nights, but it’s been left largely intact.
  • Given the renewals of the The MickFamily GuyBrooklyn Nine NineBob’s Burgers, The Last Man on EarthNew Girl and The Exorcist — which all had lower viewership, the Rosewood cancellation was hardly justified. Granted, this was a demo cancellation, but the show was moved from Wednesdays last season to Thursdays last fall and Friday at midseason without the benefit of a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday test. So demo be damned — especially since only one of their shows is even averaging more than a 2.0 in live viewership.
  • With that in mind, Pitch similarly deserved a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday test instead of being left to languish on Thursday nights.

And bringing up the rear is NBC, the network I love to pick on the most…

  • Why, after three seasons, can’t The Carmichael Show get a fall premiere (or, as of this posting, even a fourth season renewal)?
  • If they’re not going to give a new series two or three seasons to establish itself behind The Voice Performance Show, then they’re just wasting the lead-out potential and would be wise to simply put a more established series in the time slot.
  • I don’t understand shifting The Blacklist from Thursdays at 10pm to Wednesdays at 8pm and Blindspot from Wednesdays at 8pm (where I think it did an admirable job in the network’s toughest time slot) to Fridays at 8pm. Both were doing fine in their respective time slots despite the programming decisions that put them there in the first place.
  • In L+7 this season, Chicago Fire ranked #26 with an average of 9.92 million viewers, Chicago Med ranked #28 with an average of 9.47 million viewers, Chicago PD ranked #36 with an average of 8.48 million viewers and Chicago Justice ranked #37 with an average of 8.84 million viewers. Yet the latter was cancelled due to “low ratings”. Meanwhile it was NBC’s fifth highest-rated scripted series behind This Is Us and the other three Chicago shows, but ahead of TEN other scripted series that were renewed with lower viewership.

I don’t pay much attention to The CW for several reasons, but I do watch Jane the Virgin — which is their most acclaimed show (and a Golden Globe Award winner). Yet Jane will join the similarly acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (another Golden Globe Award winner) on FRIDAY nights while the superhero genre continues its dominance over the TEN hours the CW programs as a network. And I’m just going to leave the wholly unnecessary Dynasty remake alone.

This concludes my annual takedown of the broadcast networks fall TV schedules. It’s one eyeroll after another — which seems to increase by the season.

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