You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nets draw fall battle lines

Tuesday nights likely will be ground zero with sked shifts

The suicidal tendencies of network programmers will be on full display come Tuesday nights this fall.

You’d think webheads would have learned their lesson by now: The quickest path to ratings success usually lies in zigging when your opponents are zagging — in a word, counterprogramming.

Instead, the Big Six boast Tuesday skeds full of matchups pitting remarkably similar shows against each other:

  • At 8 o’clock, three of the four major nets will air comedies — the first time this has happened on Tuesday. While Fox’s younger-skewing “That ’70s Show” and “Undeclared” skew pretty young, NBC and ABC are both aiming for middle-aged femmes.

  • The 9 p.m. slot features two of the year’s most closely watched races.

    On the comedy front, ABC’s Jason Alexander starrer “Bob Patterson” is taking on NBC’s veteran “Frasier.” And on the drama side, Fox’s much-touted “24” will compete against the WB’s pricey Superman update (“Smallville”) and the new-to-UPN sci-fi actioner “Roswell.”

  • The competish continues at 10 p.m. with ABC newcomer “Philly” taking on the Eye’s established “Judging Amy.” Not only do both skeins focus on dark-haired female legal eagles, but each also stars a former cast member of “NYPD Blue.”

All of these battles are taking place in a less-than-stable programming environment. Of the 20 Tuesday shows on the six nets, eight are new, five have switched timeslots and two have jumped networks.

There’s also plenty at stake financially.

Several of the night’s key players — “Frasier,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Buffy”– are veteran series that, thanks to recent contract renegotiations, cost a whole lot more than they did last season. A ratings dip this season would mean an even larger revenue hit for each show’s respective web.

And beyond specific program showdowns, individual networks have much to win or lose as well.

Fox, for example, has moved two established successes (“Titus” and “Dark Angel”) from Tuesday nights in order to make room for its two hottest newcomers (“Undeclared” and “24.”)

While “Undeclared” won’t have much competition for its target aud of young guys, “24” needs to bring in enough of Fox’s core audience (men 12-34) while also appealing to adult females. Latter demo will be torn between high-profile offerings on ABC, CBS and NBC.

What’s more, four of the serialized show’s first five hours will also air during the November sweep — a tough way to gain footing in an already brutal time period. “Smallville” and “Roswell” will provide competish for viewers 18-34, while CBS will try to grab the 25-54 set with newcomer “The Guardian.”

Fox execs argue they had no choice but to roll the dice.

“You walk in the door at Fox and they give you the handbook that says, ‘No risk, no reward,’ ” says Fox exec VP David Nevins. “Tuesday is our ‘no risk, no reward’ night this year.”

ABC and NBC, meanwhile, will duke it out in what one rival exec calls “the sitcom war.” Right now, the battle looks to be something of a draw.

The Alphabet web is favored at 8 p.m., thanks to the move of “Dharma & Greg” into an earlier slot. Its slot rival — NBC’s already critically lambasted “Emeril” — should be cooked by Thanksgiving.

Peacock stands to do better from 9 to 10 p.m. with “Frasier” and frosh laffer “Scrubs.”

Dr. Crane & Co. are still a force to be reckoned with, despite the firepower Alexander is providing ABC. And while “Scrubs” may not be the ideal leadout for “Frasier,” the show’s getting some early critical buzz. Plus, no other laffer has dominated at 9:30 p.m. for several years.

Still, with “24” not bowing until week seven, ABC’s “Bob Patterson” could stake out a younger, more male aud (the Fox crowd), while “Frasier” skews older and more female. “Spin City,” though probably in its last season, usually manages a respectable perf wherever ABC skeds it.

In the end, NBC and ABC will probably fight to something of a draw for the lead in adults 18-49 from 8-10 p.m. — at least for the first few weeks of the season.

As for the 10 p.m. smackdown of the tough females, Kim Delaney starrer “Philly” should open well for ABC. Early on, it could win a heavily femme hour — opposite “Judging Amy” and “Dateline NBC” — among men and adults 18-34.

Further down the road, some question ABC’s decision to sked “Philly” opposite the Eye’s more established “Amy,” particularly since the move means taking timeslot vet “NYPD Blue” out of its established berth.

Now, “Amy” is the slot’s incumbent drama. What’s more, the CBS hour figures to get a boost from lead-in “The Guardian,” helping “Amy” win the hour in total viewers, driven by its strong showing among women over 35.

Multiple winners

As bloody as Tuesday figures to be, there’s a chance multiple winners could emerge.

Thanks to its relatively stable lineup, CBS has a good shot of moving ahead of ABC to win among total viewers, with Fox and ABC in a battle for the 18-49 lead; Fox will remain on top in 18-34 and teens, with all four major nets likely finishing within 2 shares in adults 25-54.

As many network insiders point out, in an era where complete domination of any given timeslot is rare, carving out one or two solid niches can be a not-so-shabby consolation prize.

“It’s no longer a winner-take-all environment,” Nevins says. “It’s been proven that you can pit a ‘Frasier’ opposite a ‘Home Improvement’ and they can both work. There’s room for more than one network to succeed.”

One thing is almost certain: Almost every web will try to spin itself the Tuesday winner come fall.

“You can expect to see a lot of press releases Wednesday morning from networks claiming victory on Tuesday,” one grizzled webhead says.

Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Tuesday







Dharma & Greg



That ’70s Show

Gilmore Girls

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

What About Joan

Three Sisters


Bob Patterson

The Guardian





Spin City



Judging Amy

Dateline NBC

2001-2002 Projections
Overall Viewers:


Adults 18-49:


Adults 25-54:

Photo finish!

Adults 18-34:


More TV

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Good Morning America

    Jussie Smollett Angrily Denies Complicity in Attack

    Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case. Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    Chicago Police Want to Talk to Jussie Smollett as New Evidence Emerges

    Chicago police are seeking to re-interview “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, after new evidence emerged in his alleged assault. Smollett has claimed that two men attacked him at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has consistently said [...]

  • Five Takes on Canal Plus, Federation’s

    Just Days Left to Catch Canal Plus’ ‘The Bureau’ on MyFFF

    The most lauded of titles on this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, UniFrance’s online showcase featured by over 50 OTT services around the world, may not be a film but a drama series. With four seasons aired, and a milestone in world sales on a French TV show, slow-boiling espionage series ‘Le Bureau des légendes’ (“The Bureau”) is [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content