“The Good Doctor” concluded its season Monday as the top-rated new drama of 2017-18. It nearly tripled ABC’s adults 18-49 average in the 10 p.m. Monday spot last season.
And it should move to Tuesdays at 10 next season.
Two years ago, TV by the Numbers identified 10 p.m. Tuesday as the worst timeslot on ABC. It still is. In the past five seasons, only one show (“Agents of SHIELD” in 2016-17) made that aired in that hour has made it to the next season. Ratings in the time period have consistently lagged well behind the network average.
“The Good Doctor” could cure that problem. The series averaged a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 on the night it aired this year (3.7 after a week of delayed viewing); “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” and “For the People” have averaged 0.7 in same-day ratings at 10 on Tuesdays. (“Kevin” rose to just 1.1 after a week, and “For the People’s” first Live +7 ratings aren’t in yet.)
ABC also has a recent precedent for a successful move of this kind. Before Tuesdays at 10 became the network’s black hole, Thursday at 8 had a similar problem. From 2009-10 to 2013-14, eight scripted series debuted in that slot. None of them made it to a second season.
Continually asking new series to lead off a competitive night was a failure on ABC’s part, and in fall 2014 the network stopped doing that. It moved “Grey’s Anatomy” up an hour to 8 p.m. and created the TGIT lineup, instantly stabilizing the night.
ABC is now in the same cycle with Tuesdays at 10. Nothing it has tried there in the past five seasons has really worked — even “Agents of SHIELD” was a one-year stopgap before the network went back to the cycle of launching new shows that turn out not to bring much of an audience.
TVBTN contributor the Masked Scheduler has said repeatedly that the ideal time to move a successful show to a new timeslot is in its second season. Even if “The Good Doctor” declines by, say, 20 percent in 2018-19, it would still more or less double the time-period average from this season. That’s a huge upgrade.
It’s also a fairly safe assumption after its huge premiere that “Roseanne” will return next season — if not in the fall, then at some point. It’s unlikely that show will maintain all of its huge premiere audience, but even half that is still an upper-echelon show in 2018. Bookending the night with “Roseanne” and “The Good Doctor” could give the network a formidable lineup.
As for the hole moving “The Good Doctor” would create on Mondays, it’s still a relatively safe spot to launch a show. To the extent that lead-ins still matter, ABC’s unscripted franchises provide a pretty good launching pad. The network could also reach into its recent past a little for a light drama that could be compatible with “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Bachelor.”
“Castle” star Nathan Fillion heads a straight-to-series project called “The Rookie” — in which he plays the oldest recruit at the LAPD Academy — that could bring him back to the spot where his former show thrived for eight seasons. There’s also “Take Two” (another straight-to-series order), which is essentially a gender-swapped “Castle” (from that show’s creator, Andrew Marlowe, and his wife/collaborator Terri Edda Miller) about an actress (Rachel Bilson) who starts shadowing a private eye (Eddie Cibrian).
It’s not hard to imagine ABC slotting either of those shows in on Monday nights next season. Whether they’d succeed is obviously not something we can answer now. But a new show would seem to have a much better chance there than in the salted earth that has been Tuesdays at 10.