The 2016-17 TV season is only five weeks away. 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.

Thursday will not officially be #TGIT night on ABC until early 2017 when “Scandal” returns to the lineup. But most of the night’s other big players return, and a few new shows will try to break through on a schedule that contains more uncertainty than most nights.

The lineup
All times 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 Grey’s Anatomy (Sept. 22) Notorious (Sept. 22) How to Get Away with Murder (Sept. 22)
CBS Sept. 15-Oct. 20 Thursday Night Football
CBS starting Oct. 27 The Big Bang Theory The Great Indoors Mom Life in Pieces Pure Genius
The CW Legends of Tomorrow (Oct. 13) Supernatural (Oct. 13)
FOX Rosewood (Sept. 22) Pitch (Sept. 22)
NBC Superstore (Sept. 22) The Good Place (Sept. 22; premieres at 10 p.m. Sept. 19) Chicago Med (Sept. 22) The Blacklist (Sept. 22)


The incumbents

“Thursday Night Football” will lead the first month-plus of the season for CBS — and also the post-Thanksgiving dead zone when it shifts to NBC late in the NFL season. In between, “The Big Bang Theory” should easily remain the No. 1 show on the night.

The newbies

ABC’s “Notorious” will try to be the bridge between Shondaland veterans “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” When CBS’ regular lineup kicks in, millennials-am-I-right sitcom “The Great Indoors” with Joel McHale gets the post-“Big Bang” spot, and medical drama “Pure Genius” will close the night.

FOX’s well-received baseball drama “Pitch” will join “Rosewood” in a revamped lineup for the network. Finally, NBC is trying comedy again on Thursdays, with newcomer “The Good Place” following “Superstore.”

The battle

Of all the shows airing at 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursday in the fall, only one — CBS’ “Mom” — is in the same spot as last season. “Mom” and its new companion “Life in Pieces” put up decent numbers, but they’re far short of what anyone would call dominant. That makes for a wide-open hour.

“Chicago Med,” moving over from Tuesday night, has a real chance to help stabilize NBC’s lineup (along with “The Blacklist” at 10) after several years of flailing. “Pitch” might get out of the gate faster than “Notorious,” but the ABC show will regularly have a better lead-in, which could help its longer-term prospects (emphasis on “could”).

The wildcard

“Pitch,” about the first female pitcher in the big leagues, will premiere toward the end of the baseball season and likely get a big promotional push during FOX’s coverage of the baseball playoffs and World Series (Major League Baseball is a licensing partner on the show). Those who have seen its pilot say it’s one of the better ones to make the fall schedule. Those are all pluses.

On the other hand, shows about or set in the world of sports can be tough sells to a wide audience. “Friday Night Lights” was one of the most critically praised network series of the past decade but never broke out. If FOX can get the marketing right (early signs of that are pretty good), and if the show can match the quality of its pilot, it could put the network back on solid ground on Thursday nights.

The forecast

“The Big Bang Theory” will still be “The Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy” will still be “Grey’s Anatomy.” After that, though, the night is more wide open than most.

If “Notorious” stumbles for ABC, it could have a negative impact on “How to Get Away with Murder” and have the network counting the days until “Scandal” returns. “The Great Indoors” will inevitably lose some of its “Big Bang” lead-in, but can it remain at the level “Life in Pieces” did last season? And can “Pure Genius” pull in anyone at 10 opposite two more established shows?

“Rosewood” struggled some when it was away from “Empire” last season, but if it can maintain the 1.0 range it that will at least be in line with last season’s Thursday offerings. The CW should be more or less status quo with “Legends of Tomorrow” and the migrating “Supernatural.”

The most stable network on the night, believe it or not, might be NBC. “Superstore” and “The Blacklist” both put up decent numbers without any help last season, and “Chicago Med” should help settle things at 9.

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

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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