Looming Winter Olympics coverage spurs networks to launch second wave of shows early
The calendar says January, but there’s something of a September feel to this month’s rollout of primetime programming on the Big Four.
Six new series bow in January, and half a dozen others return to kick off their seasons as the nets look to build on the momentum of a fruitful fall — and establish their winter series before the start of the Olympics.
The looming shadow of the Games, to air Feb. 7-23 on NBC, is what’s most affecting the nets’ midseason schedule planning, but their moves are also borne of a simple desire to air more original programming throughout the calendar year. With nets shuffling in new series while resting others, we should see an unprecedented number of firstrun hours in the second half of the season.
The CW, meanwhile, isn’t launching anything before the Olympics, but it’s alone in bowing something during the Games. Alien romancer “Star-Crossed” premieres on Feb. 17, paired on Mondays with first-year drama “The Tomorrow People,” which moves over from Wednesdays. The net will then launch post-apocalyptic tale “The 100” on March 19, taking over in the hour behind sophomore hit “Arrow,” and will bring back “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” two nights later.
Here’s a look at the Big Four broadcast network’s key winter moves:
In a new strategy, the Alphabet is resting serialized dramas “Once Upon a Time,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” in January and for most of February (they weren’t likely to air during the Olympics anyway) so that they can return in late February or early March with limited repeats until their finales.
ABC toyed with adding “Revenge” and “Nashville” to that list but probably didn’t want to go too long without so many key pieces of its schedule.
Special programming and limited-run new series like Texas Ranger tale “Killer Women” (Tuesdays) and Cold War drama “The Assets” (Thursdays) and returning cooking contest “The Taste” (also on Thursdays) will fill the holes.
The net’s Thursdays plans were thrown a curve ball when the episode order of its hottest show, “Scandal,” was trimmed from 22 to 18 due to the pregnancy of star Kerry Washington. Also, “The Quest,” an ambitious reality show that was expected to air on Thursdays starting in January, has been pushed to summer.
ABC will use the Oscars in early March to hype the late-winter bows of dramas “Resurrection” on Sundays and “Mind Games” on Tuesdays. The net is hoping the fantasy-ish “Resurrection” (airing at 9) and the move of “Revenge” to 10 p.m. can revitalize its sagging Sunday, which is down nearly 20% from last season.
On the comedy front, “Suburgatory” is back this month, and the bar-set “Mixology” bows Feb. 26, surrounding “Modern Family” on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see if the net keeps Tuesday rookie comedies “The Goldbergs” and “Trophy Wife” on that night in the spring, when both Fox and NBC will be airing laffers in the same hour. It wouldn’t be surprising to see “Goldbergs” get a shot on Wednesday.
Key for the Eye will be improving Monday, which is down about 15% this season in large part due to 10 p.m. rookie drama “Hostages,” which was shunned by auds from the start. It will be replaced starting Jan. 13 by “Intelligence,” which will air a preview episode this Jan. 7 after an original run of “NCIS.”
“How I Met Your Mother” will exit March 31 with an hourlong finale that serves as lead-in for new half-hour “Friends With Better Lives.” It’s a surprise to see “HIMYM” end so early, but CBS has a surplus of original comedy episodes and probably wants to get an idea of how its Monday might fare in the fall without its longtime leadoff hitter. (“Friends With Better Lives” could be a part of those fall plans.)
Single-camera comedy “Bad Teacher” is on the bench awaiting a timeslot, as is soapy legal drama “Reckless.”
The first-place net had a woeful winter a year ago without “The Voice,” but figures to hold up better this time around thanks to a few episodes of rookie hit “The Blacklist,” which will keep the lights on Mondays, and new Dick Wolf drama “Chicago PD,” which should boost Wednesday.
“Community’s” return will provide a slight lift on Thursday, but the net has to realize that rookies “Sean Saves the World” and “The Michael J. Fox Show” aren’t the answers for its comedy block. Instead, the best way to funnel a decent-sized audience into any new half-hours for NBC is to slot them behind “The Voice” on Tuesday — as “About a Boy” and “Growing Up Fisher” are expected to do post-Olympics.
During the Games, the Peacock also will be promoting its new midseason dramas “Crisis” and “Believe,” penciled in for Sunday, and its latenight changes (Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” and Seth Meyers on “Late Night”).
“American Idol” isn’t the dynamo it once was, but it will provide a January jolt for the net — especially on Wednesday, a night that really sagged in the fall with another music contest, “The X Factor.”
Fox will pare down the Thursday “Idol” results show to 30 minutes in the spring, putting that half-hour to better use by slotting promising new comedy “Surviving Jack” behind the music contest at 8:30.
While it’s opening up that half-hour for comedy, Fox has reduced its laffer footprint on Tuesday, where “Glee” will take over at 8 for “Dads” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (which moves to 9:30). The vet dramedy should provide a solid-enough lead-in for “New Girl” and “Nine-Nine,” the latter of which gets a timeslot upgrade. (Fox is using the Super Bowl to get new sampling for the pair, which will air after the big game.)
Another new comedy, “Enlisted,” bowing this week, is paired with “Raising Hope” on low-expectation Fridays.
On the drama front, “The Following” is back for a second season on Mondays (it gets a special post-football premiere on a Sunday); the show takes over for “Sleepy Hollow,” which contributed to the net’s big gains on the night.
New Greg Kinnear drama “Rake” is well-scheduled Thursdays at 9, where it will benefit from an “Idol” lead-in starting later this month (Jan. 23). “American Idol” won’t be able to transform Fox at the midway point of the season, it still gives the network as good an opportunity to launch new shows as anybody.