The broadcast networks announce their 2017-18 schedules in two weeks. Before that, TV by the Numbers looks at one big question each network needs to answer as they plan for next season.
FOX has some issues. Its season ratings look fine — it’s currently a close second to NBC among adults 18-49 — but those numbers are helped in large part by a massive World Series last fall and the fact the network had the Super Bowl this year.
Ratings for the network’s scripted series have fallen about 17 percent year to year, and the hole left by “American Idol” has predictably been very hard to fill.
The most urgent fix, however, might be on a night where “Idol” hasn’t regularly aired in years: Tuesday.
Since “Idol” moved to a Wednesday-Thursday schedule in the 2010-11 season, Tuesday has by and large a comedy night on FOX, with “Glee” anchoring it for a couple years and “New Girl” calling it home since fall 2011. In the past couple seasons, however, the night has delivered diminishing ratings returns, and this season, frankly, has been a mess.
Four of the six shows that have aired on Tuesdays this season — “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “New Girl,” “Scream Queens” and “Bones” — averaged under a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49. “The Mick’s” Tuesday airings and “Prison Break” are just at the 1.0 line, and the latter may fall below it by the time it’s done.
That, even in the low-expectations era of broadcast TV we currently live in, is a problem. Every other night outside of Friday, FOX has at least one show above a 1.0 (though just barely on Mondays as well). So what can FOX do? Here are a few options.
Scrap the comedy night, at least partially: The odds that at least one of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “New Girl” will be renewed seem pretty decent. “Brooklyn” could perhaps relocate to Sundays again, and if “New Girl” returns for a probable final season, it could pair with “The Mick” for an hour. But a two-hour block seems unwise. The second half of this season featured dramas at 9, which could work if FOX were to …
Import a more successful show to the night: Something like “Lethal Weapon,” maybe. It proved it could hang tough without “Empire” as its lead-out this season, and our colleague The Masked Scheduler has noted that Season 2 is as good a time as any to move a healthy new show. Another new series could than take advantage of proximity to “Empire” in the fall.
Get “American Idol” back: Oh, wait. It might be too late for that.
There are counter-arguments to all of those ideas, not least of which is that whatever airs at 9 p.m. may well go up against two this season’s bigger new series in “This Is Us” and “Bull.” But standing pat doesn’t seem like much of an option. We’ll find out what FOX decides when it announces its 2017-18 schedule on May 15.