Comedy’s hot this season, and the nets are doubling down in the fall. But with a whopping 28 half-hours on the fall sked — up from 20 a year ago and 16 two years ago — is this an over-correction?
Just because the genre is hot, it doesn’t mean that the networks should crank them out haphazardly.
ABC, NBC and Fox all added two or more comedy slots. And they’re meeting in a three-network pile-up Tuesday at 9. Something’s gotta give.
CBS, meanwhile, may possess most of TV’s top-rated comedies but it didn’t feel the need to expand in comedy just because it was the trendy thing to do. Going against the grain, the net will focus more on dramas this fall.
The best sked moves announced last week had to be ABC’s relocation of “Revenge” to Sunday behind “Once Upon a Time” and CBS’ shift of “Two and a Half Men” behind “The Big Bang Theory” on Thursday.
On the other hand, the oddest were NBC’s pairing “Whitney” and “Community” on Friday as well as the net’s shift of newsmag “Rock Center” to Thursday at 10. And then there’s ABC’s choice of following “Modern Family” with the aliens-as-humans half-hour “The Neighbors.”
Here’s a look at how the moves announced this week position the Big Four for the fall:
The primary goals were taking better advantage of its three top shows. It makes sense to give “Scandal” more time to build behind “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursday and to parlay the success of “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge” by putting them back-to-back on Sunday, but the post-“Modern Family” choice is a real head-scratcher.
Maybe ABC is thinking the concept will keep more of “Modern’s” male audience than this year’s comedies, but then why put the femme-friendly “Nashville” on at 10?
The high-concept, family-friendly “Neighbors” might be better at 8. That would then give “Middle” a shot in higher HUT levels at 8:30, and “Suburgatory” can blossom at 9:30 (and would be a good lead-in to “Nashville”).
Sunday should be a buzzy night for the net with hot rookies “Once” and “Revenge” followed by the spooky “666 Park Avenue,” whose title and cast alone were probably enough to give it this slot.
Elsewhere, ABC has successfully launched 8 p.m. dramas recently (“Lost,” “Once Upon a Time”), but Thursday has been a tough nut to crack (“My Generation,” “Flash Forward” and “Charlie’s Angels”). If there’s a show to break that drought, though, at least based on its clips, cast and auspices, it’s actioner “Last Resort.”
As for its Tuesday, ABC probably would like to flip the 8 p.m. “Dancing” results show with its 9 o’clock hour comedies, but the half-hours may be too adult-themed for the lead-off hour.
Moving “Men” behind “Big Bang” on Thursday instantly makes the net a stronger player in the night’s opening hour and it will give “Person of Interest” a bigger lead-in, which in turn should help the net’s big drama hope of fall, “Elementary” at 10.
CBS was probably frustrated at leaving so many ratings points on the table at 8:30 with clunkers like “Bleep My Dad Says” and “How to be a Gentleman” while at the same time liking its new dramas more than any its new comedies. Even if “Men” exits after this upcoming season, it will have done its job if it can provide enough of a boost to establish the young dramas behind it as the Eye’s next great crime-solving combo.
But the Eye may have left itself a bit vulnerable on Monday, where “Partners” will probably have a tough time matching the performance of “2 Broke Girls” at 8:30, but the latter should do just fine in its new 9 o’clock slot.
Tuesday returns mostly intact, with the “NCIS” duo followed at 10 by “Vegas,” which should attract a sizable male audience and is well-positioned opposite female-skewing vets “Parenthood” and “Private Practice.”
Friday’s trio of “CSI: NY,” new legal drama “Made in Jersey” and New York cop drama “Blue Bloods” should fare well among the 35-plus audience — especially in the tri-State area — but it’s hard to see the net winning the night in 18-49 as it has in recent years.
Sunday is seeing minimal change, as late starts for the lineup due to football make it difficult for a new show to take root. One crime vet (“The Mentalist”) replaces another (the cancelled “CSI: Miami”) at 10. “Mentalist” seems to be coming to the night with a little more momentum than “CSI: Miami,” so there’s a chance the net could grow in the final hour.
This is one net that won’t reconsider shifting its comedies out of Tuesday at 9, as the block has been in the works for a while and “New Girl” provides a solid building block.
“The Mindy Project” has been the net’s most buzzed-about comedy, so it belongs behind “New Girl,” giving Fox what should be a stronger, more compatible combo than it had this year. “New Girl” will probably have to work harder, though, as “Raising Hope” and rookie “Ben & Kate” don’t figure to be as strong as “Glee.”
It’s disappointing that “The X Factor” is again eating up all of Wednesday, which means good ratings for the net but at the expense of using the real estate to launch a new show behind it. Move of musical-based comedy “Glee” to Thursday behind the “X Factor” results show makes sense, though it will face tough competish for young women from ABC’s still-potent “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Monday sees “Bones” back at 8, followed by “Mob Doctor,” which takes over for “House” and should benefit from being the only Big Four drama in the hour — even if “Bones” isn’t a substantial lead-in. Still, it’s hard to see Fox challenging CBS or NBC as the broadcast leaders from 8 to 10.
If the net was going to bring back “Touch,” a Friday slot was probably the best — and only — option. It should do decently and is a pretty good sked partner for “Fringe.”
The Peacock doesn’t have any big scripted hits to build from, and therein lies the net’s biggest scheduling challenge. It’s telling that it didn’t use any of its existing comedies as lead-ins for frosh shows, instead keeping Thursday pretty much status quo while creating hourlong blocks of half-hour rookies on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
So it wasn’t surprising to see NBC bring back “The Voice” in the fall and use it to lead into what it sees as its most promising new shows: drama “Revolution” on Monday and laffers “Go On” and “The New Normal” on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, this means that while “Revolution” and the comedies will get a boost from the final portion of the hit singing competish, they will air in crowded timeslots. “Revolution” must deal with not only “Hawaii Five-0” and “Castle” (two shows that typically combined for about 23 million viewers last fall), but also ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” And, of course, NBC’s Tuesday comedies will compete against ABC and Fox’s single-camera comedy blocks in the timeslot.
NBC released its fall sked before its rivals, and should look at making timeslot moves. One that jumps out would be a return to the six-comedy template it had on Thursday a couple of years ago before abandoning it too prematurely. How about a 9-11 p.m. block of “The Office,” “Go On,” “The New Normal” and “Parks and Recreation”?
The Peacock also missed an opportunity to launch a drama Wednesday at 8 — the only weeknight hour that doesn’t have a Big Four hourlong series. Even “Revolution” might have made more sense here, but the net clearly doesn’t have confidence in its ability to self-start a show.
Overall, NBC should have zigged more where its rivals were zagging (starting with a shift of “The Voice” to a Tuesday-Wednesday sked). But after studying the moves of its rivals, look for NBC to make some sked tweaks to give its shows a fighting chance.