HOLLYWOOD — There will come a time when somebody puts on something that’s fun, entertaining and worth staying home for on Saturday night — it’s just not happening this fall.
Saturday continues to be the loneliest night of the week when it comes to network viewership, and programmers appear to be too worried about fixing other nights to address their woes here.
You can’t really blame them. The stakes are pretty low, and until one network really puts some financial and creative resources into a Saturday lineup, you can expect the others to sit by quietly, too.
Last season, the four broadcast nets combined for a measly 36 share in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, and they grabbed an even smaller slice of the pie for younger demos such as adults 18-34 and teens. (No wonder UPN and the WB don’t want any part of this night.)
There was such a paucity of choices on Saturdays that viewers gave their remotes a workout and finally landed on little-watched cabler TLC, whose series “Trading Spaces” generated more buzz than anything the nets have aired on the night in years.
Fox’s steady reality lineup of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” took the night last season in all key demos. CBS, with an older-skewing drama lineup, led in total viewers.
Here’s a look at the night:
It’s not that the net’s reality stalwarts have gotten stronger with age, but rather that the options on the other nets keep getting worse.
Last season, Fox enjoyed one of its strongest competitive finishes ever on a Saturday — winning in every key demo — and there’s nothing on the horizon to suggest that should change this fall.
Net dominated here until a few years ago but seems lost since “Walker, Texas Ranger” rode off into the sunset.
This fall’s offerings are a motley bunch: an eighth-year series that the net has basically stopped promoting (“Touched by an Angel”), the once-promising but now shaky “The District” and a series that viewers couldn’t run from quickly enough on Thursdays last season (“The Agency”).
Return of “The Agency” is surprising, but keep in mind that in the past two years, CBS also brought back weak performers like “City of Angels” and “That’s Life” for brief second seasons.
“District” and “Agency” at least seem to be compatible skedmates, but it’s pretty serious fare for Saturday night.
Net likely will continue to see ratings declines on the night until it returns to fare the whole family can enjoy.
The Alphabet was second on the night last season among adults 18-49 and figures to again pose the greatest challenge to Fox in key demos.
In the fall, when the net airs Saturday afternoon college football, expect to see familiar male-oriented pics like “Enemy of the State” and “Air Force One,” which often put up big numbers in their final hour.
The Peacock, which ranked fourth last season (discounting the Olympics) will again start the season with theatricals, with new titles like “The Talented Mr. Ripley” joining recent repeats like “Kiss the Girls” and “U.S. Marshals.”
But at midseason, look for the net to have some fun by experimenting with perhaps an all-reality night, drama repeats or even an inexpensive scripted series.
Fun skeins like “Meet My Folks” and “Dog Eat Dog” would seem a good match for the net’s “Saturday Night Live” aud — and perhaps the best way to bring the latenight favorite’s sizable crowd to the set a few hours earlier.