It’s tough enough to launch new shows in today’s crowded environment for dramatic television, but for a pair of nets on Thursday, it’s become downright futile.
NBC has already pulled its latest Thursday 10 p.m. clunker, “Do No Harm,” after two poor perfs; adding salt to those low-number wounds is the ignominy of the show becoming the first Big Four drama to open to a sub-1 rating in adults 18-49 (it did a 0.9 for its premiere and then a 0.7 a week later for its finale).
ABC, meanwhile, continues to struggle opening the night, as “Zero Hour” bowed last week to a 1.4 rating, a record low for an Alphabet in-season drama premiere.
These results show that even in an era of DVRs and time-shifting, timeslots still matter. Auds clearly don’t think about ABC on Thursday until “Grey’s Anatomy” starts at 9, and they’ve seemed unwilling to give anything on NBC at 10 a try since “ER” exited.
NBC once owned Thursday at 10; it required only three drama series in the hour — “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “ER” — in a 28-year span from 1981 to 2009. Fast forward to last season, though, and the net burned through three new dramas — “Prime Suspect,” “The Firm” and “Awake” — in about 28 weeks.
In a wave-the-white flag move, NBC elected to turn the hour over to the news division this season with newsmag “Rock Center With Brian Williams,” but that (predictably) fared poorly. Jekyll-and-Hyde drama “Do No Harm” got its abbreviated shot this winter.
It’s hard to see an opening here for NBC, especially since ABC (“Scandal”) and CBS (“Elementary”) both have successful young shows in the timeslot, and the Peacock can’t offer much in the way of lead-in support for a new show. The net seems to be aiming for high-concept ideas with pre-sold recognition: Following its Jekyll-and-Hyde attempt, it bows “Hannibal,” based on the “Silence of the Lambs” character, on April 4.
While NBC has plummeted from great heights on Thursday at 10, ABC hasn’t been a player in Thursday’s 8 o’clock slot in at least 40 years. In fact, with the exception of three-year runs for “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (1999-2001) and “Ugly Betty” (2006-08), ABC has not brought back the same Thursday 8 p.m. hour from one fall to the next since the comedy block of “The Flying Nun” and “Bewitched” in 1967 and 1968.
And since “Ugly Betty” exited the slot in the spring of 2009, the net has tried out seven, mostly serialized, dramas: “FlashForward,” “Deep End,” “My Generation,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Missing,” and this season’s “Last Resort” and “Zero Hour.” It’s a bit early to totally write off “Zero Hour,” but its opening-night perf doesn’t inspire confidence.
Granted, it’s a tough timeslot (opposite CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and Fox’s “X Factor” and “American Idol”), but perhaps the net should nix the idea of slotting a new show there — or at least make it something that’s procedural in nature and doesn’t require tune-in every week.
Still, given the hole both ABC and NBC have dug for themselves on the night, it figures to take something pretty special for a new show to break through.