Monday is the official start of the new broadcast television season. It’s an anxious time for many television executives. Over the past few seasons, the networks have gone back to a scorched-earth approach to launching their shows with the return of an actual premiere week. It’s Armageddon, and I love it. It really is survival of the fittest, and it allows for a minimal amount of denial on the part of the execs.
The stress levels are high, and I would joke that access to the roof should be closed off for the first two weeks of the season. Look, most shows are going to fail, but what that means nowadays is pretty confusing. There are so many ways to justify or rationalize the show’s initial few weeks of ratings.
Two years ago, on my blog Revenge of the Masked Scheduler, I started entering freshman shows in the Book of Life. Premiere week generally coincides with the Jewish holidays, when one’s fate is sealed in the BOL. I posited that after three weeks of ratings in a freshman show’s regular time period, you could pretty much predict its fate.
“Scream Queens” on FOX was a disaster in spite of the heavy promotion, but I predicted it would return for another season because of the network and studio’s relationship with Ryan Murphy. FOX stuck with it for another season before throwing in the inevitable towel. I bring this up because it’s becoming less about the ratings, although the ratings still tell the story.
So, what’s going to go on behind the scenes this week?
NBC and CBS should have fairly smooth rides, although CBS will feel a lot better after seeing a number or two for “Young Sheldon” when it arrives in its regular home in late October (the pilot episode airs Monday night, then the show goes off air for a month). CBS has, in my opinion, a rather fragile comedy block on Monday. NBC is in pretty good shape, and it all comes down to how “Will & Grace” returns and whether it can lift the other comedies on the night.
FOX and ABC probably have a few more landmines on their schedule. For ABC, it’s another year of questionable 10 p.m. shows and another Marvel series. They do have the comedy blocks, and “The Mayor” is getting the love and the lead-in. FOX has no launchpad other than “Empire,” and that’s reserved for “Star,” which is no “Empire.” “The Gifted,” another Marvel series, is going to have to pretty much self-start coming off of what will be a 1.0-1.2 lead-in from “Lucifer,” so good luck with that.
There will be a lot of talk of delayed viewing and engagement and Twitter mentions, but at the end of the day it’s the ratings, stupid. Good luck to all and away we go.