Fall TV 2016: Wednesday night forecast for ‘Empire,’ ‘Speechless,’ ‘Frequency’ and more


The 2016-17 TV season begins in just six weeks. As fall approaches, TV by the Numbers will be looking at each night of the broadcast networks’ schedule to identify competitive timeslots, see which newcomers have a real shot at success and which veteran shows will keep their ratings up.

Wednesday night features four new series, a couple of which have decent chances to succeed. It also features the No. 1 scripted show on broadcast TV, the No. 2 comedy and some of the longest-running shows on the air. Let’s break it down.

The lineup
All times are ET/PT. New shows in italics.

Network 8 p.m. 8:30 p.m. 9 p.m. 9:30 p.m. 10 p.m. 10:30 p.m.
ABC The Goldbergs (Sept. 21) Speechless (Sept. 21) Modern Family (Sept. 21) Black-ish (Sept. 21) Designated Survivor (Sept. 21)
CBS Survivor (Sept. 21) Criminal Minds (Sept. 28) Code Black (Sept. 28)
The CW Arrow (Oct. 5) Frequency (Oct. 5)
FOX Lethal Weapon (Sept. 21) Empire (Sept. 21)
NBC Blindspot (Sept. 21; premieres at 10 p.m. Sept 14) Law & Order: SVU (Sept. 21) Chicago PD (Sept. 21)


The incumbent

“Empire” has been the No. 1 show on the broadcast networks (excluding the NFL) each of the past two seasons. In 2015-16 its same-day ratings were 19 percent higher than the No. 2 entertainment show (4.4 to “The Big Bang Theory’s” 3.7). With that kind of cushion, it seems unlikely to relinquish the crown this season.

The newbies

FOX’s “Lethal Weapon” will get the pre-“Empire” spot, which helped “Rosewood” establish itself last season. The CW is putting “Frequency” behind “Arrow,” and ABC has two new shows: Comedy “Speechless” gets a comfy spot between “The Goldbergs” and “Modern Family,” and drama “Designated Survivor” has the 10 o’clock slot formerly occupied by “Nashville.”

The battle

“Battle” might be overstating things here, but the most interesting questions about the night surround the 8 o’clock hour. “The Goldbergs” should slide into the leadoff spot pretty seamlessly, as it pulled in better 18-49 ratings than “The Middle” last season. “Speechless” has been receiving good early word for its pilot, but whether it can be a stable bridge to “Modern Family” and the rest of the night is, obviously, up in the air now.

“Lethal Weapon,” similarly, has earned good early notices. Being next to “Empire” will certainly help it, but if it can do more to stand on its own that will be a boon to FOX. And then there’s …

The wildcard

“Blindspot” was the top-rated new show of last fall, but it faded badly in its second half after a long layoff (2.3 in 18-49 from September-November, 1.4 from March-May). Now it’s tasked with kicking off NBC’s Wednesday without the benefit of “The Voice” as a lead-in.

A similar move helped doom “Revolution” in 2013-14, and it would be foolish to assume “Blindspot” will rebound to its fall 2015 numbers. Its potential saving grace could be the show it’s replacing: “The Mysteries of Laura” didn’t set an exceptionally high bar with its 1.1 season average last year. If “Blindspot” can clear that, it may be able to survive.

The forecast

Wednesday doesn’t feature a lot of big moves. That’s perhaps not surprising on a night that features three shows — “Law & Order: SVU,” “Survivor” and “Criminal Minds” — that have been on the air for at least a dozen years and another (“Modern Family”) going into its eighth season. The ratings picture for the night therefore doesn’t seem likely to change all that much either.

“Empire” should still dominate the night, and ABC’s comedy lineup should remain solid, although “Modern Family” has begun to fade some as it enters its later years. “Survivor,” “Criminal Minds,” “SVU,” “Chicago PD” and “Arrow” are all known quantities as well.

ABC may have a shot at regaining some juice at 10 with “Designated Survivor,” which doesn’t face the stiffest competition. Name recognition will likely help “Lethal Weapon” get out of the gate, but The CW could face a bit of a regression since “Frequency” may not retain as well out of “Arrow” as “Supernatural” did last season.

More fall forecasts: Monday | Tuesday | Thursday | Friday | Sunday

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