I had already planned on writing this week about the number of shows Fox has picked up to series for next season, when Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly made a splash at the TCAs by declaring that the network was abandoning the traditional pilot season. But first…
There was a lot of discussion at the end of the year as to whether or not this was a good year for quality television. My opinion is similar to James Poniewozik’s over at Time – yes to both sides - but arrived at from a different angle.
The number of entities producing scripted shows continues to grow, with internet-based providers now getting in the game. Due to the level of existing competition, these new entries have largely tried to distinguish themselves by either focusing on new subject matter or being the works of new showrunners. The problem is that the number of quality staff writers and directors for hire isn’t keeping up with the rate of new show creation. The end result:
Average quality goes up, as instead of soulless police procedural #10,746, we get shows featuring either fresh voices or fresh settings.
Peak quality goes down, as the number of good staff writers and directors gets spread ever thinner between the larger number of shows.
The point of that self-indulgent digression? Reilly’s comments seemed to boil down to acknowledging that the pond is being fished out, and the new, long term process allows them to sign talent whenever it becomes available, and the show released when it is ready. The wrinkle is the large backlog of committed projects could make the chances of existing borderline candidates even shakier. For argument’s sake, here’s a schedule comprised solely of shows either already renewed, virtually guaranteed to be renewed for syndication, already ordered, or deep in Fox’s new process:
M: Hieroglyph/Sleepy Hollow
T: Mulaney/Fatrick/New Girl/Cabot College
R: Glee / The Middle Man
F: MasterChef Junior / ?
Now sure, not all of these new shows will launch in Fall; I’m sure some will end up never airing, period, with the projects dropped due to casting/writing staff/showrunner issues. But with additional scripts and traditional pilots still ordered, there’s not a lot of spare room left on Fox’s schedule for the rest of the shows airing now. Speaking of some of those shows:
Almost Human continues to exist in the worst possible range for Fox – not bad enough to be a clear cancellation, yet not good enough to be a clear renewal. It has bounced back a little against softer competition in recent weeks, but the clock may be running out. Almost Human already aired its tenth-produced episode last week, yet there’s been no word of any backorder, not even the additional scripts hedge. Unless the show gave everyone involved the mother of all holiday breaks, production should be wrapping up soon. The silence is deafening.
On the other hand, this week Fox recommitted that the most likely replacement, Gang Related, is indeed still airing in Summer. It looks like Fox will try something else in the timeslot after The Olympics, and is putting off the bad PR as long as possible, but the situation is odd.
Genius in France
Brooklyn Nine-Nine won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, and Andy Samberg won for Best Actor in a Comedy. Awards show wins rarely result in significant shifts in audience numbers; Brooklyn Nine-Nine promptly tied its season low this week.
Fox clearly wants the show to succeed, with the Super Bowl slot and the timeslot swap. (Personal disclaimer: I want the show to succeed – it is the only freshman show I watch.) If Reilly thought it was a lock, he could just say “Our #2 comedy, which has done 90% of what our #1 comedy has done in 2014? Of course we’re renewing it.” That he hasn’t should suggest that its fate really does depend on how it does in the new timeslot.
American Idol returned to the worst premiere ratings it has ever had. On the other hand, the #1 and #2 shows on television this week? American Idol.
So the question becomes, “Will American Idol fall as much as it historically has, or does the larger audience care so little for American Idol now that they didn’t even bother to check out the new judging lineup?” Personally, I suspect it is the latter, the drops will be less steep than average, and the show will live on in some format next year. We shall see over the next couple weeks.
This week’s premieres and other notable data points:
Intelligence collapsed in its regular timeslot premiere, losing 50% of the rating it had after NCIS. The show is dead. The larger question is how CBS responds to the new reality at 10pm next season. More on that next week.
The Blacklist returned to a 2.5 rating without The Voice lead-in. While some will point to the steep drop from the last episode, I’d point out that only one episode of any scripted show on NBC has topped that number this year without The Voice as a lead-in – Law & Order: SVU’s season premiere. Forget merely being happy with that number – NBC is likely considering moving The Blacklist to anchor Thursdays. One possible problem with that plan? Internet chatter has surfaced that ABC is considering buying the Thursday Night Football package from the NFL. More on that next week.
The Goldbergs seems to have stabilized in the survival range. Given that ABC has renewed at least one freshman comedy every year since the 06/07 season, despite most of those renewals being mistakes (e.g. Better Off Ted), the numbers are solid enough that I think ABC continues the trend, and I’ve moved it to “Renewal Predicted”.
Killer Women dropped another two tenths from its already terrible premiere. ABC promptly announced that it was moving up Mind Games’ premiere to as soon as the Olympics were over. (A moment of personal snark: “ABC’s season in a nutshell – Hoping for a Kyle Killen show to fill a ratings hole”.) It’s unclear if ABC is not airing all the episodes of Killer Women, or if they are throwing multiple episodes under the Olympics per night.
Suburgatory returned to a rating under what Back in The Game had averaged in the timeslot, albeit against American Idol’s premiere. If there’s a show the Cancellation Bear would like to spare, it is Suburgatory, but I have no such mercy. My view is that for the mid-level ABC comedies, all that matters is getting them to syndication, and ABC themselves derailed that plan when they only ordered 13 episodes. The show is dead… on ABC. I fully expect them to shop it around to cable, and unlike Happy Endings, Suburgatory is a decent match for ABC Family. Suburgatory even had a sizable budget cut this year, so a move to cable wouldn’t be as rough.
Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.
|Back In The Game||ABC||Canceled|
|How I Met Your Mother||CBS||Final Season|
|We Are Men||CBS||Canceled|
|Nikita||CW||Final Season Finished|
|American Dad||Fox||Moving to TBS|
|Welcome To The Family||NBC||Canceled|
|Killer Women||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Neighbors||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Once Upon a Time in Wonderland||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Super Fun Night||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Trophy Wife||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Good Wife||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Mentalist||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|Beauty & The Beast||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Carrie Diaries||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Tomorrow People||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|Almost Human||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Brooklyn Nine-Nine||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Mindy Project||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Raising Hope||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Michael J. Fox Show||NBC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Sean Saves The World||NBC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Crazy Ones||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Mom||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Two and a Half Men||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Goldbergs||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Grey's Anatomy||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Last Man Standing||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Middle||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Modern Family||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Once Upon a Time||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Big Bang Theory||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Blue Bloods||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Criminal Minds||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Hawaii Five-0||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Mike & Molly||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|The Millers||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|NCIS: LA||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Person of Interest||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|2 Broke Girls||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Hart of Dixie||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|The Originals||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|The Vampire Diaries||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|Family Guy||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|The New Girl||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|Chicago Fire||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Chicago PD||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Law & Order: SVU||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Parks & Recreation||NBC||Renewal Predicted|