Just about two weeks of the 2016-17 TV season are in the books. There have been some surprises (pleasant and not so much) in the ratings, and the way things have broken so far raises a few questions.
So let’s ask (and answer) them.
Which show will be the first one canceled?
A week ago, the money would have been on “Notorious,” which premiered to a meager 1.1 rating among adults 18-49 and lost more than half of its “Grey’s Anatomy” lead-in.
It’s still a definite contender, but after holding its premiere rating on Thursday, the show may have bought itself some time. FOX is also likely to stick with “Pitch” for a while, and nothing else that’s premiered so far has performed poorly enough to be in immediate danger.
Are there any breakout hits among new shows?
“Breakout” might be a strong word — there’s nothing on the level of “Empire” Season 1 — but in the early going three shows have put up hit-level ratings, as defined here.
“This Is Us” (2.7 rating in adults 18-49), “Kevin Can Wait” (2.65) and “Lethal Weapon” are all at or above the hit threshold — a threshold that will probably revise down somewhat later in the season, with veteran shows largely declining in ratings. “Designated Survivor” (2.0) and “Speechless” (1.9) are close to hit status as well. “MacGyver” has a chance too, if it can keep close to its premiere numbers.
Where have all the viewers for older shows gone?
Good question. Almost every veteran show has returned at levels below their early episodes last fall, and in a number of cases lower than where they ended the 2015-16 season. Some erosion from long-running shows is to be expected, but even the relatively young shows are suffering declines.
Here’s a theory: There are a lot of long-in-the-tooth shows on the air right now. Ten entertainment series on the Big 4 networks are in at least their 10th season, and 10 more have been on the air for at least six years. That’s more than a third of all shows that have aired in the first couple weeks of the season. Aging shows typically are on the back side of their ratings peaks. It’s not the sole cause of the downward trend, but it’s probably a factor.
Could reboots actually work this season?
“Lethal Weapon” and “MacGyver” have certainly started well — which, as probably the two most recognizable names in this year’s crop of adaptations, was probably to be expected. It’s too early to make a sweeping judgment yet.
The CW joins the party next week. How will it do?
There’s little reason to believe the fifth network will completely buck the trend of veteran shows coming in lower. “The Flash” will probably top at least one of its Big 4 competitors on Tuesday, but new show “no Tomorrow” will be up against 50 million or so people watching the vice presidential debate.
Outside of “The Flash” and maybe “Arrow,” “Supergirl” (which premieres Oct. 10) is probably the only CW show with a chance to get over a 1.0 in adults 18-49 for its premiere. The CW has said it expects “Supergirl” to be one of its Top 3 shows, which would mean having to put up something better than a 0.8, based on the network’s performance last year.