As broadcast network executives were leaving for their holiday destinations last week, most of them were certainly glad to get away, and not only because of the dreary wet Los Angeles weather. The broadcast networks had little to cheer about this fall, which failed to produce breakout hits of the size of Modern Family or Glee a year ago. This year, the breakout hits were all on cable: The Walking Dead on AMC and Rizzoli & Isles on TNT, which ranked as the top basic cable series of 2010 among adults 18-49 and total viewers, respectively. The biggest new reality hit was also on cable, MTV’s Jersey Shore, which launched at the very end of 2009. Here are some notes on the fall season, evaluation of the performance of the individual networks and a look ahead at midseason.
- The biggest thing on TV this season has been football, which set ratings records for NBC and ESPN. It dwarfed the entertainment competition not only in live viewing but also in Live+7 where scripted series gain a significant chunk of their viewership.
- It’s nearly impossible to launch a new series at 8 PM. Two of the 3 new 8 PM series, NBC’s Undercovers and ABC’s My Generation, are history, while ABC’s No Ordinary Family was on a ratings decline until moving to 9 PM where its numbers stabilized. NBC’s new reality series School Pride barely registered in the Friday 8 PM slot, raising concern over CBS’ plan to launch new drama Chaos in the slot in midseason.
- Big-name producers don’t guarantee success unless the name is Chuck Lorre. While the Lorre-produced new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly is the highest-rated new series this fall in the 18-49 demo, J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers went bust as did the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced ABC legal drama The Whole Truth, while another Bruckheimer series, Chase, is fading. The jury is still out on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoff Law & Order: Los Angeles, which has had so-so ratings so far. Next up are Shonda Rhimes with ABC’s Off the Map and David E. Kelley with NBC’s Harry’s Law.
- Texas proved the unluckiest setting for new series. Of the four freshman series set and filmed in the Lone Star state, My Generation, Lone Star, The Good Guys and Chase, 3 have been already been canceled and one, Chase, is struggling.