MONDAY 8 P.M.
“THE CLASS” (CBS) vs. “PRISON BREAK” (Fox)
What’s at stake: One of the fall’s highest-profile new comedies takes on one of last season’s strongest rookies.
CBS perspective: The Eye aims for younger comedy viewers, and this skein — from the producers of “Friends” and “Mad About You” — could attract them without alienating the net’s traditional audience. Premise of third-grade class members reconnecting 20 years later is relatable, and should score best with femmes in their 30s and 40s; if it can attract some twentysomethings, too, CBS could have a hit. Net opted to lead off the night with “The Class” as it figures it can be a self-starter that should generate plenty of buzz.
Fox perspective: Monday has become a night for high-octane action on Fox, and “Prison Break” will look to maintain its hold on auds as storylines shift away from the prison and the series assumes the on-the-run feel of “The Fugitive.” The 8 o’clock hour might not seem best suited for such edgy action, but Fox programs only 15 hours a week, and this series worked well here last year. It was last season’s No. 1 new drama in adults 18-34 and drew nearly the same size aud among both men and women.
Bottom line: “The Class” may not seem ideally suited for CBS, but it could do decent business kicking off the night. It’s no match, though, for “Prison Break,” which should be the time period’s No. 1 scripted skein.
TUESDAY 8 P.M.
“DANCING … STARS” (ABC) vs. “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” (NBC)
What’s at stake: The most successful unscripted skein to bow in the last couple of years shifts to a new night, where it will tackle NBC’s drama about a high school football team in Texas in what’s shaping up to be one of the strongest 8 o’clock hours of the week.
ABC perspective: The Alphabet struggled on Tuesdays last fall but is looking to jumpstart the night with “Dancing,” which is very popular among women over 35 — a large, available audience early in the evening. It’s a little surprising that ABC skedded “Stars” in this hour, though, since a second edition in the spring would go up against “American Idol.” But it should do just fine in fall, where its most direct competition will be hit CBS drama “NCIS.”
NBC perspective: Sports-themed skeins have not been very successful in primetime over the years, but the Peacock is hopeful its new NFL “Sunday Night Football” franchise can help launch this hour. Like ABC, NBC has not been much of a player in the timeslot, but this skein could click if it can tap into men 12-40, an audience not served elsewhere in the hour. Show also includes high school and young-adult elements that could attract some of the young female audience that may be tiring of “Gilmore Girls.”
Bottom line: “Dancing With the Stars” has the better moves and should win, but “Friday Night Lights” — one of the best-looking pilots this season — can be a factor, especially if it can count on young adults in football-loving red states.
WEDNESDAY 10 P.M.
“THE NINE” (ABC) vs. “KIDNAPPED” (NBC)
What’s at stake: CBS procedural drama “CSI: NY” will face tougher competish this fall when it opposes a pair of new serialized skeins: NBC’s tale of a kidnapped boy and ABC’s story of the aftermath for nine people held hostage for two days in a bank.
ABC perspective: After squandering the sizable lead-in provided by “Lost” last season, the Alphabet should fare considerably better this time around with “The Nine,” which similarly deals with a disparate group of people (mostly strangers) reacting to harrowing circumstances. “The Nine” is more relatable than last season’s “Invasion,” which fizzled in the time period, and is positioned to possibly knock off “CSI: NY” for the timeslot lead among young adults. Key could be how much of “Lost’s” large male aud sticks around.
NBC perspective: The Peacock made the right move in removing the fading “Law & Order” from this hour and opening things up for a newbie, but it could have a tough time with this rather lackluster hour. Making things more difficult for NBC is that, unlike the other dramas in the 10 o’clock hour, “Kidnapped” will have a reality show for a lead-in (“Biggest Loser”) and not a compatible drama. It also won’t help the Peacock if Fox gains early traction with its similarly themed new Monday drama “Vanished.”
Bottom line: Don’t expect auds to be arrested by “Kidnapped,” which should have difficulty opposite not only last season’s slot leader, “CSI: NY” on CBS, but also “The Nine,” which looks to be fall’s most promising new show.
THURSDAY 9 P.M.
“CSI” (CBS) vs. “GREY’S ANATOMY” (ABC)
What’s at stake: A few years after the “Survivor”-“Friends” showdown proved megahits can co-exist opposite each other on Thursday, it’s another heavyweight battle on the crucial advertising night when the Eye’s vet crime drama takes on the Alphabet’s watercooler medical skein.
CBS perspective: “CSI” has been a Thursday powerhouse in this hour since 2001, and there’s no reason to expect its audience to disappear because it’s facing television’s hottest show. That said, CBS’ rivals have not exactly challenged the forensics phenom the last two years as it began to show some signs of vulnerability, and ratings declines are inevitable. Not helping is NBC’s new slot occupant “Deal or No Deal,” a gamer that figures to siphon away more viewers from CBS than ABC.
ABC perspective: Why would ABC shift “Grey’s” from Sunday to Thursday opposite television’s most-watched scripted skein? Because it has just about the only show that could do it. “Grey’s,” a rare combination of sex and smarts that’s also a critical fave, scores best among women 18-49 and should roll in that demo here even if its averages slip in the tougher timeslot. A late ABC sked switch that puts promising new comedic drama “Ugly Betty” in the preceding hour will only help create more buzz surrounding “Grey’s” on its new night.
Bottom line: This is one hour where broadcast television as a whole wins, with “CSI” remaining in control among total viewers and most male demos and “Grey’s Anatomy” assuming the lead among young adults and all key female demos.
FRIDAY 8 P.M.
“MEN IN TREES” (ABC) vs. “CLOSE TO HOME” (CBS)
What’s at stake: For those who believe too many shows are set in New York and Los Angeles comes this battle for the timeslot lead pitting a sophomore crime drama set in Indianapolis against a light-hearted newcomer whose action takes place in Alaska.
ABC perspective: After struggling in the time period last season with the likes of laffer “Hope & Faith,” ABC is going a different route. “Men in Trees,” starring Anne Heche in a drama about finding love in unexpected places, could connect with women under 55 who don’t like the dramas on CBS or NBC (vet “Las Vegas”). “Trees” figured to have a better shot with “Ugly Betty” as its lead-in, but ABC earlier this month shifted “Betty” to Thursday and is now leading Friday with “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
CBS perspective: “Close to Home” barely survived its initial season, performing weakly in its original Tuesday slot before perking up midseason on Friday behind “Ghost Whisperer.” The Eye is hoping there’s an audience for a crime drama before “Numbers” at 10, and “Home” consistently challenged for the lead in this hour the second half of last season. The addition of David James Elliott to the cast could help recruit new viewers to the same time period in which his long-running “JAG” closed shop two years ago.
Bottom line: A procedural is the safer bet on a Friday night, so “Close to Home” is the show to beat, but don’t count out the appealing “Men in Trees,” a potential sleeper success.