Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Brief (Ha!) Recap of the '06-'07 TV Season

All numbers are from the The Programming Insider archives at TV Tracker and pifeedback.com:

CBS

The Good: Remember the question I asked before the season began, about whether Crime shows would finally fall this season, and I said probably, with Criminal Minds being among the first to go? Well, I was wrong. A lot. Criminal Minds (Ranked #9 for the season with 16.89 million viewers) exploded this season, beating Lost near the end of that show's limited fall run, jumping to #2 last week in total viewers and now has the coveted Post-Super Bowl slot. Otherwise, it's mostly business as usual: CBS is #1 among total viewers but #2 among Adults 18-49, they have the biggest comedy on TV (Two and a Half Men [#14, 15.45]) and the only successful comedy line-up on network TV, and they've somehow found a way to make almost every timeslot on their schedule work.

Toss-Ups: While they still dominate Thursdays among total viewers, ABC has put a major dent in their line-up. Despite (Or maybe because of) early controversy, Survivor is having it's lowest rated season ever (#13, 15.65), CSI (#2, 21.46) is feeling the heat of Grey's, and Shark (#22, 14.04) is performing decently, but you know Without a Trace would probably be kicking butt here. Speaking of Trace (#17, 15.07), the critically-acclaimed procedural's move to Sundays helped boost the night for CBS, but the show itself is down by nearly 30% from this point last year. And while Jericho started out well, looking like one of the season's surefire hits, it has gradually decreased, and has leveled off at around 9-10M viewers. Still, that's the best that timeslot has seen in years.

The Bad: Tuesdays at 10:00 is beginning to look like the network's lone cursed timeslot, having already gone through two shows in this young season (Smith and 3 Lbs.) after going through four overall last season.

Overall: As I said earlier, they're the only network right now that has something working in nearly every timeslot. If young people actually watched them, they might be the model for The Perfect Network.

ABC

The Good: Welling having the #1 show on television sure is good. Grey's Anatomy (#1, 22.20), despite having the now-typical sophomore backlash, has made ABC a player on the most important night on TV. Even better, Thursday kick-off show Ugly Betty is one the few shows this season to become a hit almost entirely on its own (The only other one would probably be Heroes). On Sundays, meanwhile, Desperate Housewives (#3, 21.10) showed that there is life after backlash, having been #1 4 of the first 10 weeks. And, of course, there's Dancing with the Stars (Tuesdays: #4, 20.66; Wednesday: #5, 19.08) which I said at the beginning of the season just might be the American Idol of the fall, and I was partially right. While it didn't reach the heights of AI, it did dominate its timeslot and boost ABC on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Toss-Ups: Brothers and Sisters has apparently been building in quality as of late, but it still has a mediocre rendition of 60% from Desperate Housewives, better than Desperate's first lead-out Boston Legal but far lower than Grey's Anatomy, a show that eventually turned into a hit in its own right, a feat B&S will take a while to reach. And Lost (#7, 17.70) is still getting ratings that most cult shows would envy, they're waaaay down from last fall, and it is now cool to bash the show for its weirdness and slow-moving nature. Except here at South Dakota Dark, of course.

The Bad: ABC has fumbled Tuesdays and Wednesday post-Dancing/Lost in a way rivaled only by Fox in the fall. On Tuesday, you have the bombtastic Help Me Help You, which squandered over half of Dancing's audience despite ending in a half-hour with no other sitcoms, and Big Day, which premiered last week with a low 7.5M viewers, and will probably go even further down this week. On Wednesday, Day Break, Lost's replacement, has dipped to less than 5M viewers, and The Nine was pulled from the schedule after dropping to a horrendous 4.1M viewers the day before Thanksgiving. ABC is also having problems with the post-Grey's slot, where Six Degrees was squandering almost 65% of the medical show's audience before getting pulled. Men in Trees showed slightly better numbers this Thursday, losing "only" half of its audience.

Overall: They have one all-around well-working night (Sunday) and two almost fully operational (Wednesday and Thursday). Otherwise, they need serious help, 18-49 Crown be damned.

NBC

The Good: [Insert Lame "Save the cheerleader, save the world" Joke Here] Heroes (#18, 14.84) has become the biggest new show of the season, and a Top 10 smash among Adults 18-49, so yeah, that's pretty good. Also on Mondays, Deal or No Deal fever (#12, 15.77) probably won't be wearing off anytime soon, as NBC has decided to cut the show down to one edition a week, which should keep it preserved longer. And people's thirst for game shows doesn't end with Howie Mandel, as shown by 1 vs. 100's minor success on Fridays, usually getting around 9 or 10M viewers. Also on Fridays, Las Vegas and Law and Order both survived their moves to the night, where both also usually score in the 9-10M viewer range, better than what the network has been getting there as of late (Inconceivable, anyone?). Sunday Night Football (#8, 17.36) has benefited from NBC being able to choose what games play for the second half of the season. And while My Name is Earl and The Office aren't exactly kicking butt in total viewers, they usually tie the more-watched Ugly Betty among Adults 18-49, and The Office has been the most-downloaded show on iTunes so far this season.

Toss-ups: Despite airing two Law and Orders back-to-back, Tuesdays have been rather lowly lately for NBC, not helped by the disappointing performance from God's Gift to TV Friday Night Lights, which has become NBC's Arrested Development. Also not-so-hot is the much-lampooned Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which has gradually decreased into the 7M viewer range. Still, it got a full-season renewal, mostly thanks to its high numbers among rich people, the audience with the most money to throw away. Oh, and after the much talked about resurgence of E.R., the veteran medical drama is back to the low levels it was at last season.

The Bad: Wednesday has been terrible for most of the season, With Kidnapped being one of the biggest flops of the season and 30 Rock being barely saved by the new Must-See TV Thursdays (Where people are still ignoring it), and The Biggest Loser hitting series lows. Medium has been doing okay on the night, but NBC is missing the obvious opportunity to move Medium back to Mondays, where it would be a far better fit with the culty Heroes than Studio 60.

Overall: They don't have a lot of obviously bad things going on right now (Like ABC), but they also don't have a lot of obviously good things (Like CBS).

FOX

The Good: House (#11, 15.96), just like last fall, is the biggest plus on the network's schedule, dominating its timeslot and holding its own unlike any other AI-boosted show (Well, maybe 24, but that did well before AI came along). Prison break is still doing decently on Tuesday, despite the show's major plot changes this season. And Sundays have been doing well among Adults 18-49, with American Dad being smartly placed as a bridge between The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Toss-Ups: Well, Bones was #1 among Adults 18-49 last week in its timeslot, but #3 among viewers.

The Bad: Jesus, what a terrible, terrible line-up of new shows. Vanished was getting semi-decent ratings after Prison Break, but was moved to Fridays (Where it eventually died) for Justice (Which moved from Wednesday where Criminal Minds and Lost were killing it), which was canceled after only a few weeks and replaced with House repeats (Which performed far better). On Tuesdays Fox tried boosting Standoff by having it swap timeslots with House for the first four weeks, which got it a big premiere number and even bigger drop-off the following three weeks. It is now fighting for fourth place with Gilmore Girls, yet still got a vote of confidence from Fox, which ordered four more scripts. And finally the two failed Thursday comedies 'Til Death and Happy Hour. The former is still there, struggling to keep sitcom viewers from NBC, while latter was gone the week after returning from Baseball hiatus (Which, by the way, was the lowest rated post-season ever). And dare we mention Celebrity Duets and The O.C.?

Overall: As long as American Idol and 24 deliver the goods this Spring, Fox could care less about the fall.

The CW

The Good: For the budding hybrid of UPN and The WB, progress has been slow. However, America's Next Top Model has shown zero drop-off from last season (Unlike most of the shows on The CW) and even came in third in its timeslot among Adults 18-49, beating NBC and ABC. Wrestling is still obviously popular on Fridays, even occasionally beating Fox in total viewers. And Reba and 7th Heaven have become the most unlikely Sunday power duo, showing increases in their timeslots.

Toss-Ups: So, so many toss-ups. Gilmore Girls, Smallville and the Comedy line-up have all dropped off by double digits from last season, but have all leveled off to what look like decent numbers. And Veronica Mars and One Tree Hill were both shows that barely made the line-up, and have had mixed results. Veronica Mars started off with okay numbers, holding onto 65-70% of GG's audience until The CW aired an episode after a GG repeat and stopped showing ads for it, and the show suffered until the Hearst Rape case was solved last week, getting record numbers for the show. One Tree Hill followed a similar pattern, starting out well, then dipping (Mainly due to Lost and the increasing Criminal Minds), then this week broke 4M viewers, its biggest number this season.

The Bad: Runaway showed that the network either should've A) kept Everwood, or B) get new shows that could actually attract an audience to a new network. Also, one would think that combining the two networks would lead to bigger numbers than both of the old ones, but the numbers have been mostly the same as both UPN and The WB individually, and even occasionally lower.

Overall: They need a show that can attract a new audience to the network and keep them there.

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