Net faces struggle on Thursdays at 8
Zero hour, indeed.ABC simply can’t make anything work Thursdays at 8 p.m. — nothing scripted, anyway. Friday’s late-afternoon news that “Zero Hour” — starring former Thursday primetime mainstay Anthony Edwards of “ER” — had been canceled came as little surprise to those who have followed ABC’s ongoing struggles against the competition in that timeslot. “Zero Hour” succeeded fellow frosh “Last Resort,” a program that earned some of the best reviews of any new network 2012-13 program (admittedly, not a high bar). After getting notice in November that the Andre Braugher starrer would not be extended beyond its initial 13-episode order, “Resort” aired its last episode in January. Last season, it was “Charlie’s Angels” and “Missing” that failed to catch on at 8 p.m. Thursdays, the former getting its cancelation notice after four episodes. In 2010-11, fall freshman “My Generation” only made it through two airings before the plug was pulled. The year before, it was “FlashForward,” which ideally was going to inherit the fantasy/mystery throne from former ABC mainstay “Lost,” that fell by the wayside in its first season. Not since the third season of “Ugly Betty” in 2008-09 has an ABC show made it past an entire season at 8 p.m. Thursday. “Ugly Betty” was then pushed to Fridays for 2009-10 on the theory that ABC could do better in that timeslot, but since then the network has been forced to keep applying such Band-Aids as “Wipeout” and encores of “Grey’s Anatomy” in a period that is considered vital because, among other things, weekend feature film ads often land there. (Coming up next for ABC at Thursdays at 8 will be “Shark Tank,” followed in two weeks by “Wife Swap” and then the return of “Wipeout” in the spring.) Certainly, facing the juggernaut that is CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” hasn’t helped ABC — when Fox’s “American Idol” is only No. 2 on your list of worries, you know you have a challenge. But the Alphabet net hasn’t even been able to take advantage of NBC’s struggles in the time period to firmly grab third place. One thing ABC hasn’t tried in some time at 8 p.m. Thursdays is a comedy, no doubt out of fear that CBS and NBC have the market cornered there. So that’s a longshot approach to turn things around, but it seems as good as throwing another drama up for slaughter. Perhaps the best strategy for ABC would be just to commit to unscripted programming at 8 p.m. Thursdays until “Big Bang” and “Idol” finally wear out — however many years that takes. Or here’s another, completely off-the-cuff thought: Hand 8 p.m. Thursdays over to sister network ESPN and see what the Worldwide Leader can do with it.