ABC Can’t Win at 8 p.m. Thursdays

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 at 8 p.m. Thursdays in some time 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.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Stefano Sollima for Web Story

    'ZeroZeroZero' Creator on Making an Old Story New and How Andrea Riseborough Got Hurt (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stefano Sollima, the Italian director known in Hollywood for “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and TV show “Gomorrah,” is the main creative force behind cocaine-trafficking series “ZeroZeroZero,” which will world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5. Festival chief Alberto Barbera has praised it as blowing “Narcos” out of the water. Sollima directed [...]

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]


    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content