Seven weeks into the 2013-14 season, the dust has started to settle, the strongest new shows have been renewed, the biggest duds have been cancelled, and the borderline performers have been getting a mix of both. Some anticipated time slot wars materialized, like the Tuesday 8 PM hour where incumbent NCIS and newcomers Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Originals all have been competitive, and some didn’t, like the hyped Blacklist-Hostages showdown, which turned to be a lopsided match. Which leads us to one of the lessons of this fall, that pre-launch tracking is not that reliable.
Until the very start of the fall season, CBS’ Hostages was tracking on par with NBC’s The Blacklist. But when ratings for premiere night were in, Blacklist more than doubled Hostages‘ demo tally. While boosted by DVR viewing, Hostages never became the breakout hit it was tipped to be.
Related: Fall 2013 Freshman Series: Time Slot Gainers and Slackers
What has mattered in a big way this fall are lead-ins, even with DVR penetration at 48%. NBC’s Blacklist and hot sophomore drama Chicago Fire have been helped tremendously by The Voice. CBS’ new Thursday comedies The Millers and The Crazy Ones owe their well being (and back orders) to The Big Bang Theory. When Big Bang switched to a repeat, the newbies’ fortunes plunged. (list of all new fall shows with their status after the jump)
On the surface, a whopping nine new comedy series have been given back orders on the Big 4 networks (all but ABC’s Super Fun Night and NBC’s Sean Saves The World have received full-season pickups), along with NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show, which had a 22-episode order, vs. three new dramas, including the Season 2 pickup for Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. But the three dramas – Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. — are the freshmen that have shown breakout potential this fall while comedies had another off year. That is not terribly alarming to network brass as some comedy hits have taken time to grow, such as Cheers, Seinfeld and more recently The Office, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Problem is that we haven’t seen much of that in the past couple of years. Instead, there have been a ton of comedies that started promisingly (like 2 Broke Girls and Suburgatory) and then lost their way or started off soft and never went to another level before the cancellation ae fell on them after 1, 2 or 3 seasons, like ABC’s Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt 23, NBC’s Whitney and Fox’s Ben & Kate.
There has been an increase in the comedy volume put out by the networks in the past couple of years. That, combined with the lack of half-hour breakouts, has led to many but weakened comedy blocks. We have the most two-hour comedy blocks on the Big 4 — five — in a decade. Read More »