Fox, CBS on top in early going
Two weeks into the fall season, no new TV series has gotten the dreaded quick hook, but the broadcasters are still facing some tough decisions. Nearly every net has at least one new or returning series that will require a sked a change.While there’s been no flameout akin to what Fox experienced last season with drama “Lone Star,” trigger fingers may start to get itchy this week. The nets have so far been patient as all still have launches in the coming weeks that will tell them more about where they stand, not to mention the additional insight into viewer behavior from live plus-7 DVR ratings. At this early juncture, CBS and Fox are in the pole positions, ABC is middling but with a few bright spots, while NBC and CW have faced rocky starts. Fox seems in a position where it needn’t make any fixes to its fall lineup. While “The X Factor” and “Terra Nova” haven’t quite matched the hype preceding their launches, they are still well ahead of year-ago timeslot entrants and either lead or stay competitive with other timeslot entries. “New Girl” performed strongly enough in its first two weeks to earn the season’s first back-nine order, a feat all the more impressive as its lead-in, “Glee,” has softened still a good performer but down sharply vs. last year. CBS is also riding high, topping Fox among adults 25-54 for the first week of the season. But unlike Fox, the Eye may have timeslots troubled enough to require repair. The Thursday premiere of new comedy “How to Be a Gentleman” was a disappointment, losing 45% of its 18-49 lead-in “The Big Bang Theory” and down 18% from the second episode of “$#*! My Dad Says” from the year before. CBS may be the only network with a clear replacement possibility given the scheduling of veteran utility player “Rules of Engagement” sitting by itself on Saturday, a night where the network could easily opt to just do what every other broadcasters does and go with wall-to-wall rebroadcasts. And it has Rob Schneider’s midseason half-hour waiting in the wings. A quick fix seems less likely for CBS’ Thursday 9 p.m. drama “Person of Interest,” which has underwhelmed, premiering 9% below previous timeslot inhabitant “CSI” and dropping an additional 13% in week 2 when it had “Gentleman” as its lead-in for the first time. But as high as the Eye was on the drama considering its strong showing in preseason testing groups, there’s little indication the net will pull the plug, though it also has a midseason drama option on the bench with cop drama “The 2-2.” ABC has a more pressing problem on Thursday at 8 p.m. with “Charlie’s Angels,” which opened OK in the demo (2.1), but took a nearly 30% tumble in its second week (1.5). Yet the network isn’t about to give up on the drama as, believe it or not, its second week was still better than last year’s “My Generation.” Elsewhere on the schedule, the Alphabet has found better traction for new series, with “Revenge” and “Suburgatory” looking pretty good early on Wednesdays, and Sunday drama “Pan Am” opening well. The fall hasn’t been as kind to NBC, which went into the season with Peacock brass making clear the turnaround of the fourth-place network could take several years — a fact reinforced by its struggles so far. New comedies “Up All Night” and “Whitney” have drawn respectable ratings by NBC’s diminished standards. But Monday 10 p.m. drama “The Playboy Club” and Wednesday 8:30 p.m. comedy “Free Agents” are barely on the Nielsen radar. Though both of those shows started soft and have dropped further, NBC hasn’t made any moves yet toward cancellation. In an effort to assure the creative community that NBC is a producer-friendly environment, NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt let it be known before the season started that he was not inclined to give shows a quick hook. But something may have to give. “Playboy Club” isn’t likely to budge given that NBC has already signaled it will reboot Mondays in the midseason with the pairing of “The Voice” and “Smash.” Launching something new, from a rebooted version of unscripted veteran “Fear Factor” to the new Brian Williams-led newsmagazine “Rock Center,” would be pointless if the net’s going to clear the decks come January. “Agents” could be the season’s first goner if its audience continues to shrink. The Peacock could conceivably double-pump “Night” to fill the slot or add a repeat of Thursday rookie “Whitney.” In the longer term, NBC could revert to the comedy six-pack on Thursday it tried last season, a distinct possibility should 10 p.m. freshman drama “Prime Suspect” continue to struggle. NBC could beat a retreat from its attempt to open a second comedy block on Wednesday and migrate “Night” along with “30 Rock,” which is set to return early next year. The network could even opt to mix things up on Thursday by plugging “Rock” in somewhere between 8-9 p.m. given the softness of “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” season to date. The CW has been hit as hard as NBC, with every returning series besides “Vampire Diaries” seeing across-the-board declines and none of its new series breaking out. Its sorest spot is unscripted series “Hater,” which has tanked in the Wednesday leadoff slot. The net may well fill the void with a rerun of a frosh show (think “Ringer” or “Hart of Dixie”) that might benefit from the additional sampling opportunity. Or CW could press its “One Tree Hill” warhorse into service if it decides to erase “Hater.” But new network president Mark Pedowitz has made stabilizing the schedule year-round a priority, which means he may not want to part with programs destined for midseason or summer.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more