Nets ponder sked changes for fall

High-profile dramas, more comedies likely on tap

In the DVR era, auds may indeed be more inclined to watch shows on their own timetables — but schedules and timeslots are still important.

As the broadcast nets continue to pick up new shows for the fall, a key determining factor in how each will perform is where it lands on the primetime sked. It may sound old-fashioned, but the best way to maximize a show’s potential is to schedule it behind an established hit.

CBS, with the most hit shows, will be looking to use them to funnel viewers to its frosh fare, which figures to be heavy on comedy.

ABC, meanwhile, has more holes but will likely zero in on a couple of key nights, while Fox’s priorities include finding a new signature drama and a live-action comedy hit.

And NBC, with fewer building blocks than its rivals, figures to focus on the 10 o’clock hour, where no new big hit show on any net has emerged for years and the competish isn’t as intense. (And there certainly are good 10 p.m. slots available at the Peacock following this season’s “Jay Leno Show” failure.)

Overall, comedy appears to be more of a priority for the Big Four than recent years, coming off a season in which most of the new successes — led by “Glee” and “Modern Family” — made auds chuckle. But exactly how and where the nets add comedy timeslots is a tougher call.

Here’s a look at each network prior to next week’s unveiling of fall skeds:

TV’s demo leader for six years running will look to build on its “Glee” success by adding live-action comedy to its sked. The net has thrived with its Sunday animation block for years, but its last real live-action hit laffer was “Malcolm in the Middle.”

A combo of “Traffic Light” and “Keep Hope Alive” might work in Tuesday’s opening hour, leading into “Glee,” which has moved to a new ratings level this spring and figures to be able to perform well in the fall even without a huge lead-in. And if the laffers struggle, there’s always “American Idol” to slide into the timeslot come January.

The Monday hour behind “House” should see the net’s top drama hopeful, perhaps “Breakout Kings” or “Ride Along.”

Wednesday, which looks to be the most wide-open night, could see a new reality show and a new drama, keeping the genre combo intact that the net employs in the “Idol” half of the season. Midseason bubble show “Human Target” could also get another half a seasonto to prove itself here.

Thursday could stay the same, as “Fringe” held up reasonably well in a tough hour and “Bones” has been the net’s best scripted performer on the night in some time.

Friday remains a tough nut to crack, and the net may be best served to go with movies or reality shows.

Sensing that comedy is hot, and believing it has several good laff prospects, look for the Eye to stick with its core three Monday sitcoms (“How I Met Your Mother,” “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory”) and add two or three newbies, which would be spread out over Monday and Wednesday.

It’s unlikely two rookies will air on Wednesday, but picking which vet to anchor this night isn’t easy. “Two and a Half Men” makes the most sense, although the net may be a bit queasy about putting such a sexually explicit half-hour at 8 (even though the show airs at an earlier hour in syndication).

Moving either “Mother” or “Big Bang,” though, would necessitate several additional moves, and the usually cautious Eye may not want to shake things up quite so much.

In the end, it may come down to how the new comedies mesh with the vets. Something like “Bleep My Dad Says” with William Shatner would work best behind “Men,” while “True Love” sounds good behind “Mother,” and “Mike and Molly” could follow “Big Bang.”

Elsewhere, the “Hawaii Five-O” redux seems like a good fit behind “NCIS: Los Angeles” on Tuesday, which would mean “The Good Wife” would have to relocate, perhaps to Friday.

Assuming “Undercover Boss” is back Sundays at 9, the net may want to take advantage and slot something at 10, and again “Five-O” could work.

Elsewhere in drama, the net’s needs are pretty minimal, although some “CSI” franchise slot changes could be looming (see separate story, page 21). Among veteran bubble shows, “Numbers” and “Cold Case” aren’t expected to be back, but “Cold Case” might work well as the occasional two-hour movie.

The biggest needs for the Alphabet are probably sprucing up its Sunday and Thursday lineups, which are still effective thanks to their 9 p.m. anchors, but definitely need some support.

“No Ordinary Family,” which sounds like the best ABC hourlong hopeful, could slide into the 8 o’clock slot on either of these nights, with Sunday perhaps the more logical slot since it has family appeal. Longtime slot occupant “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” could either move to another night (like Friday) or be saved for occasional specials (in place of repeats) on Sunday.

Thursday could see the net possibly challenge Fox’s “Bones” for the crime audience with Dana Delany’s “Body of Proof” or the legal show “Matadors”; either would figure to provide “Grey’s Anatomy” at least a decent lead-in — something it’s lacked the last couple of years.

If ABC’s comedy development is good, three new half-hours could join the lineup, including a family-based laffer like “It Takes a Village” or “Nolan Knows Best” on the net’s almost-there Wednesday lineup. The night could be capped by Shonda Rhimes’ latest medical-themed series, “Off the Map,” or the female-fronted copshow “Boston’s Finest.”

Tuesday comedy from 9 to 10 could work, with Matthew Perry’s “Mister Sunshine” and “Happy Endings” as possible choices. There has also been talk of the net picking up “Old Christine” if CBS cancels it.

The only drama that may come back for a second season is “V,” which has showed a little spunk of late and may be back on Tuesday.

Under Jeff Gaspin, the net’s development appears to be its best in years, so look for the Peacock to make some noise at 10 o’clock with new offerings from big-name producers.

J.J. Abrams’ “Undercovers” looks good to cap Mondays, although a 9 o’clock slot could also work, paired alongside “Chuck” and the final batch of “Heroes” episodes.

Tuesday should see the return of “The Biggest Loser,” followed by perhaps anthology series “Love Bites” or this season’s newcomer “Parenthood,” which has been winning its hour among young adults and could benefit from timeslot stability. Another option would be “The Apprentice,” which is due back in the fall with its first civilian version in a while — although Wednesday at 8 might be a better slot.

The Peacock figures to go with “Law and Order” skeins to launch new shows on Wednesday and Friday. “SVU” could slide back to Wednesday at 9, followed by something like Jerry Bruckheimer’s action procedural “Chase.”

And Fridays make sense for “Rockford Files,” which could be paired with the new “Law and Order: L.A.” or the ancient “Law and Order” original.

On the Thursday comedy front, “Outsourced” may be the best bet to join the net’s returnees, and would work best behind “The Office” at 9:30. Mediocre performer “30 Rock,” which has had long enough to find an aud behind “The Office,” could shift to the 8 o’clock hour along with either “Community” or “Parks and Rec” — with the other being saved for midseason.

David E. Kelley’s legal drama “Kindreds” would then be a good choice to close out the night.

Since rookie “The Vampire Diaries” is performing so well kicking off Thursday, CW may want to start the season with the seemingly compatible “Betwixt” behind it at 9, and save “Supernatural” for midseason.

The netlet should give this season’s decently performing midseason entry “Life Unexpected” a chance to bloom in its second year. It, vet “One Tree Hill” and hot rookie prospect “Nikita” could all be part of a drama wheel on Monday to cut down on repeats.

That would mean a compatible pairing of “Gossip Girl” and “90210” on Tuesday, while a good choice behind “Top Model” on Wednesday might be cheerleading drama “Hellcats.”

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