Spitballing Schedule Strategies Ahead of Next Week’s Upfronts

Analysis: Here's one way the Big Four networks could position their shows for next season

Upfronts Scheduling

As the Big Four networks prepare to unveil their fall schedules, it’s always fun to play armchair programmer. And when the same person schedules all four, you avoid silly things like we saw last year when three networks went head to head with comedies in the same hour. In fact, it makes you wonder how much stronger the broadcast biz might be if the networks did a better job of counter-programming each other.

None of the proposed spinoffs (of “Once Upon a Time,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” or “Chicago Fire”) made this final schedule — they don’t interest me and there hardly seems to be a national clamoring for them — but they will probably surface at midseason.

So, with a hunch that this will be a strong season for comedy, here’s one possible way the schedules could roll out:

(Keep in mind, that the suggestions of new shows are based on auspices, cast, buzz and personal taste; no pilots have been screened by the press.)


I would like to see ABC rest “Dancing With the Stars” in the fall for “The Bachelor,” but I opted for the safe/more likely option that it will return in the same Monday and Tuesday slots.

There’s an opportunity for the net to make a move early on Tuesday with “Marvel’s SHIELD,” a big-tent show that should play well at 8 and be easily promotable on sister cabler ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Following the “Dancing” results show, I’d stick with “Body of Proof” for the fall and then try something else later in the season.

ABC is still looking for hit shows for after “The Middle” and “Modern Family” on Wednesday, and will probably take several more swings this season. To start, though, decent recent addition “How to Live With Your Parents” gets a shot at 8:30. And just to try something different away from the family mold, how about Rebel Wilson’s “Super Fun Night” at 9:30?

I was leaning toward a shift of the Thursday dramas, and this week’s ratings results convinced me that now is the time to pull the trigger. While I believe “Grey’s” still has several more years left in it, the net would be best served sliding it down to 8 (one of ABC’s most bugaboo timeslots in recent years) and put the hot “Scandal” at 9, followed by a new drama. In the DVR era, when so many people watch on a delayed basis, having “Grey’s” earlier in the night may actually work out quite well, giving viewers more time to watch it to count in the same-night ratings. (An added benefit for ABC is that an 8 o’clock start means the Shonda Rhimes dramas could each run 61 minutes, with the new show at 10:02).

After “Scandal,” the lottery-winner drama “Lucky 7” seems like a good, less frenetic drama choice to cap the night.

It’s tempting to move “Shark Tank” off Friday, but it’s doing so well (and providing a nice lead-in for the rejuvenated “20/20”), that it probably won’t budge. “Last Man Standing” and something else will air in the hour before “Shark.” The multi-cam “Divorce: A Love Story” (hopefully with a new title) might be a good choice. As for other comedies, “The Neighbors” and/or “Suburgatory” could probably return in some form.

On Sunday, “Forever” (formerly “The Returned”) sounded good for 9 p.m., after “Once Upon a Time” and pushing “Revenge” back to 10. But it’s probably not wise to put a show about the returning dead opposite “The Walking Dead.” So “Revenge” stays put and the net simply tries to do better in the hour behind it this season.


8              Dancing With the Stars

10           Castle


8              Marvel’s Shield

9              Dancing With the Stars results

10           Body of Proof


8              The Middle

8:30        How to Live With Your Parents…

9              Modern Family

9:30        Super Fun Night

10           Nashville


8              Grey’s Anatomy

9             Scandal

10           Lucky 7


8            Last Man Standing

8:30     Divorce: A Love Story 

9            Shark Tank

10          20/20


8              Once Upon a Time

9              Revenge

10           Forever


This should be a big season in comedy for CBS, as it not only seeks an eventual replacement for “How I Met Your Mother,” but plunges into the single-camera waters. There’s no guarantee it will binge on single-cams, but considering that seven of its 12 comedy pilots were of that style, the net seems determined to break through.

The Eye certainly has enough comedy parts to consider expanding its Thursday block to four shows, and the recent ratings results for “Person of Interest” on Thursday (where it’s not really rising despite a stronger lead-in) make it more likely that the second-year drama will leave the hour to make room for comedies. “Mom” seems like a great fit as part of a Chuck Lorre sandwich between “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” (but if CBS deems “Mom” its clear standout new comedy, it probably would go Monday at 8:30, making for a “Mother”/”Mom” combo). And coming out of “Big Bang” is about as safe an opportunity that CBS will get to try a single-cam comedy, so Robin Williams’ “The Crazy Ones” gets the slot. “Elementary” continues to close out the night, with its sometimes lighter, comedic elements making it easier to promote during the comedy block than something like “Person of Interest.”

On Monday, the new “Friends With Better Lives” seems like a good fit with, and possible replacement for, “How I Met Your Mother,” but CBS will probably give a few shows a try in its hammock slots. And following the returning comedy block from 9 to 10 p.m., “Beverly Hills Cop” should give the night a  jolt.

“Hawaii Five-O” seems like a good fit on Sunday after “Amazing Race,” and “The Good Wife” transitions to Friday, in an hour where modest ratings could keep it on the sked for a few years.

With three comedies and just one new drama on the sked in the fall, CBS can focus more on drama at midseason. Something like “Hostages” or “Intelligence” could take over for one of the aging Wednesday crime hours, and “NCIS: Red” might be good to try on Sunday.


8          How I Met Your Mother

8:30    Friends With Better Lives

9          2 Broke Girls

9:30    Mike & Molly

10        Beverly Hills Cop


8          NCIS

9          NCIS: Los Angeles

10        Person of Interest


8          Survivor

9          Criminal Minds

10        CSI


8          Two and a Half Men

8:30    Mom

9           The Big Bang Theory

9:30    The Crazy Ones

10        Elementary


8          Undercover Boss

9          The Good Wife

10        Blue Bloods


7          60 Minutes

8           The Amazing Race

9           Hawaii Five-O

10        The Mentalist


Fox has numerous needs and should aggressively target men at the beginning of the week (opposite “The Voice”) because there aren’t many opportunities elsewhere, with “X-Factor” eating up so much space midweek and the Sunday lineup intact.

The two Monday comedies are male-friendly and can be promoted during football. I’d go with something from Gordon Ramsay at 9 p.m. until after the World Series, and then launch “Sleepy Hollow” (or perhaps “Gang-Related”).

“Dads” could easily slide in to replace any one of the three new comedies, and the more femme-friendly “Us & Them” could air at some point on Tuesday.

I keep thinking Fox will do something to minimize its reliance on “X-Factor,” so don’t rule out a comedy airing after it on Wednesday.

And Fox only has so many available hours, so it needs to make better use of Friday, where it was not competitive this season. “Bones” could work well here, leading into J.J. Abrams’ “Almost Human” (or perhaps Greg Kinnear-fronted “Rake”).


8          Brooklyn Nine-Nine 

8:30    Surviving Jack           

9          Sleepy Hollow                         (post-World Series premiere)


8          Enlisted                                              

8:30     Raising Hope

9          New Girl

9:30     The Mindy Project


8          The X-Factor


8          The X-Factor

9          Glee


8          Bones

9          Almost Human                                                     


8          The Simpsons

8:30     Bob’s Burgers         Murder Police at midseason

9          Family Guy

9:30     American Dad


Putting high-profile shows after “The Voice” is again the best bet for NBC. “Believe” has a “Heroes”-“Revolution” feel and would be good after the female-skewing music contest on Monday. The Tuesday comedy combo of Michael J Fox and Jason Katims’ “About a Boy” — the most promising (to me, anyway) of NBC’s new comedies — serve as a nice lead-in at 10 to the unsung “Parenthood,” which is also from Katims.

“Million-Second Quiz,” which is intended as a limited-run series, or some other high-concept reality show should be able to make some noise on Thursday that NBC’s comedies couldn’t, and this should aid “Revolution” on its new night. The Peacock will then be able to assess the comedy landscape across the week and decide whether to expand on Thursday at midseason.

Without a returning multi-cam comedy, NBC might have to pair Sean Hayes’ “Sean Saves the World” with a thematically-compatible single-cam entry like “Family Guide.”  The net ordered a second multi-cam comedy, Bill Lawrence’s “Undateable,” but that might be better saved for midseason.

NBC also will probably hold one or two of its favorite dramas (perhaps “Blacklist” and “Ironside”) for post-Games launches.

“Community” and “Hannibal” return to the sked with 13-episode “show me” renewals. If they don’t improve ratings wise, they won’t be part of the net’s plans post-Olympics. NBC also figures to hold at least one of its new dramas for after the Games.


8          The Voice

10        Believe


8          The Voice

9          Michael J. Fox comedy

9:30     About a Boy

10        Parenthood


8          Sean Saves the World

8:30     Family Guide

9          Law & Order: SVU

10        Chicago Fire


8          Parks and Recreation

8:30    Community

9          Million-Second Quiz/Other Reality              

10        Revolution


8          Dateline

9          Grimm

10        Hannibal


8          Sunday Night Football