Even if the networks aren’t successful in getting folks to stay home on Friday nights, at least they’re now trying.
After a few seasons of primarily using Friday as a dumping ground for new shows that never had a chance — “Danny,” “That Was Then” and “Robbery Homicide Division” come to mind — the night appears to be more of a priority for broadcasters.
The six nets are looking to stem the tide of declines after losing 20% of their collective Friday audience over the past three seasons. Even leader NBC is shaking things up.
Overall, the two strongest programs on this night, NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” and ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” have departed, making the night something of “a jump ball,” as CBS topper Leslie Moonves puts it.
In position to pick up the slack, though, are a mix of potent returning shows and intriguing newcomers.
Especially impressive is the 8 o’clock half-hour, where two promising rookie dramas — NBC’s “Miss Match” and CBS’ “Joan of Arcadia” — butt heads with three rising comedies moving to new slots (ABC’s “George Lopez,” Fox’s “Wanda at Large” and the WB’s “Reba.”)
This is a huge upgrade from just one year ago, when the top draw in Friday’s opening hour was home movies of a kid kicking his dad in the crotch (“Home Videos”).
In other changes of note, NBC has moved its critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged “Boomtown” to the night’s 10 o’clock hour, where it will take on “The Handler,” a new FBI drama on CBS.
And at 9, Fox’s third-year “Boston Public” takes on CBS’ ninth-year “JAG” in a battle of transplanted dramas that hope their audiences will follow them.
ABC, meanwhile, is re-christening the night “TGIF” in a flashback to its successful run in the ’80s and early ’90s with comedies.
Here’s a look at the night:
One of the net’s biggest moves was taking the dominant “SVU” off the night and replacing it with “Boomtown,” which is not in the same ratings class. Peacock is hoping an easier timeslot can help this second-year crime drama slowly build a following; look for it to eke out a win in 18-49.
At 8, the likable Alicia Silverstone stars in “Miss Match,” which is the favorite to win the slot in 18-49 as NBC returns to the kind of lighthearted show (“Providence”) that worked in the hour recently. It also figures to skew a bit younger than “Providence.”
“Dateline” returns at 9 and should battle “JAG” for first in adults 25-54.
Faith Ford/Kelly Ripa starrer “Hope & Faith” will get sampling at 9 but its early pilot was weak, so its current “retooling” better be extensive.
Net might have been better off moving “My Wife and Kids” to Friday at 9 and making this a signature night with family programs that better fit the old “TGIF.” As it is, this lineup could crumble because there’s not much after “George Lopez,” which has come on strong and is in position to challenge for, or even lead, its slot.
Comedies at 8:30 (new “Married to the Kellys”) and 9:30 (second-year “Life With Bonnie”) figure to struggle.
“20/20” is not the ratings force it once was, but it could see a boost now that there will be no dominant player at 10.
“Joan of Arcadia” could be a winner and draw a broader aud than most CBS shows. It’s unfortunate that it has to go up against “Miss Match,” though, in a rare battle of under-30 female drama leads.
“JAG” feels like a Friday show and seems right for this hour opposite the heavily femme “Dateline” and younger “Boston Public.”
At 10, “The Handler” should be a bit more competitive than last season’s “Robbery Homicide.” But what’s with the title? It sounds like a creepy Batman villain.
In all, CBS appears in a position to register year-to-year gains in all three hours.
Net has packaged a lineup that makes sense, with new comedy “Luis” sandwiched between “Wanda at Large” and “Boston Public” — two shows with African-American leads and broad appeal.
“Wanda” could have used more seasoning before being asked to anchor a new night, and it could find itself the comedy squeezed out at 8.
“Boston Public” faded on Mondays last season and isn’t expected to do a whole lot in its new slot, where repeats have performed poorly this summer.
Will youngsters really want to watch a high school show on Friday nights, anyway?
Moving “Reba” to 8 is a smart move, as it’s the net’s biggest and broadest comedy and will shine the light on the rest of the lineup.
“Grounded for Life” should do a solid job at 9, and 9:30 entry “All About the Andersons” is a charming surprise. The new “Like Family” is the weak link in the lineup, but it’s hammocked pretty well at 8:30.
With more pressing needs on the sked elsewhere, net was smart to keep its movie night intact. In the future, though, Friday could be key if UPN is to ever forge an identity: Wasting two of its 10 hours on moldy movies won’t cut it.
NBC will be down a little but still win the night in 18-49 and 25-54, while CBS should make nice gains and probably will finish second. ABC and Fox will be battling for third.