Quizzers square off; only two new entries join lineup
HOLLYWOOD — There is a fair amount of moving but not too much is really shaking on Monday this season, as the nets prepare to roll out surprisingly conservative lineups on one of the most-watched nights of the week.
While three programs have shifted to the night — including ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and NBC’s “Weakest Link,” who will square off in a rare battle of quizzers — only two of Monday’s other 15 shows are new entries: NBC drama “Crossing Jordan” and UPN laffer “One on One.”
CBS and Fox, the night’s ratings leaders of a year ago, are keeping their skeds intact and should remain on top.
Last season, the Eye won the night in total viewers and adults 25-54 — powered by its “Everybody Loves Raymond”-led comedy lineup, which was up vs. the previous season by 15% in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen. Newcomer “Yes, Dear” was also key, boosting the 8:30 timeslot’s perf by nearly 20% in younger demos.
Despite these gains, though, 10 p.m. drama “Family Law” was down 10% and kept the net from a more decisive victory. The surprising return of “Family” for a third season leaves the net vulnerable on what is its strongest night.
Fox, last year’s Monday champ in adults 18-49 (by a tick over CBS) and 18-34, could see second-year growth out of “Boston Public,” which hit ratings highs late in the season and improved the time period considerably. Its success is a main reason why lead-out “Ally McBeal,” which had seen its ratings skid a year earlier, suffered only 6% year-to-year demo declines last season.
“Ally” is still a force, especially among young women, but is undergoing a major cast overhaul this season, something that could make or break a show in its fifth year.
ABC, second in total viewers and third in 18-49 on Mondays last season, starts off with “Millionaire” on its new night, followed by “Monday Night Football,” in its 32nd season.
The quizzer, which will be featuring stunt episodes on the night (celebs, couples, sports stars), should be able to hold off NBC’s “Link,” which showed signs of weakening late this summer after a strong start last spring and inherits a weak Peacock time period.
“Millionaire” also gives ABC a strong foundation to build from in January, when football leaves the sked. After the net’s Monday movie dipped by 24% in adults 18-49 last season, the Alphabet will try series rather than pics to air from 9 to 11 beginning in January.
NBC, apparently learning a lesson from last year’s weak showing at 9 with “Deadline,” has given this year’s new Monday drama, “Crossing Jordan,” a chance to breathe a bit at 10. Instead, it’s third-year drama “Third Watch” that is thrown to the wolves in the tough 9 o’clock hour, battling both CBS comedies and Fox’s “Ally McBeal” in addition to ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”
“Third Watch” will likely struggle at 9, but look for “Jordan” to bolt out of the gate very well. Combo of a network favorite star (Jill Hennessy), a hot genre (crime drama) and soft drama competish (“Family Law”) should result in big ratings — at least initially.
A sluggish “Weakest Link” could get NBC off to a slow start, though, something it can’t afford if it wants to turn around its weakest weeknight.
Both weblets will continue to be a strong presence, especially the WB, whose Monday was its most-watched night of the week.
Family drama “7th Heaven” is back for a sixth season after showing year-to-year gains last year, but the WB could feel the loss of unsung player “Roswell,” which has moved over to UPN. Taking over for “Roswell” at 9 is “Angel,” which previously aired on Tuesdays and struggled in its new slot this summer.
UPN has already launched its Monday sked, with new laffer “One on One” fitting in nicely with the net’s urban comedies, which includes 9 p.m. anchor “The Parkers.” In its first two weeks, the lineup has produced some of the net’s best Monday ratings in nearly five years.
Shows skew urban, female and very young, allowing UPN to find a strong niche aud that’s not served by the other nets.