Friday, September 19, 2008

ABC 2008-09: A Look Ahead

(Hey, gang. The summer job that's kept me so busy is just wrapping up, so I'll have some thoughts on the excellent second season of Mad Men and how it relates to the Republican ticket -- I know! -- sometime this upcoming week. In the meantime, here's Jon with some typically astute ratings predictions. -- ed.)

Over the course of the next few days, I'll be looking ahead at the upcoming fall schedule, making observations of the moves and new series by the networks, along with some predictions as to how these moves will work out, and how the new shows will do overall. Hopefully it'll also work as a refresher on the fall schedule, so you wonderful readers have an idea of what to do with your fall viewing.

Going in alphabetical order by network, we begin with ABC. Of the networks, ABC was one of the hardest hit by the strike, thanks to its reliance on serialized shows, meaning all it had to keep it afloat at the beginning of Winter was Dancing with the Stars and Lost, or the first 8 episodes anyway. Returning from the strike, most of the returning shows were badly hurt, and some didn't return at all, opting to wait until the fall to start back up again (More on that in a bit). It also has the least amount of new shows premiering in the fall, with only two, one drama and one game show. The schedule after the jump.


08:00 p.m.Dancing with the Stars (Sept. 22)

09:30 p.m.Samantha Who? (Oct. 6)

10:00 p.m.Boston Legal (NEW NIGHT) (Sept. 22)

Analysis: This night stays mostly the same with the exception of moving Boston Legal, which should keep it as one of the strongest nights for ABC. Dancing is the only real consistent hit ABC has left (Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy do well, but have been on the decline), and Samantha Who? works well enough out of Dancing, better than any other show they have found (Though it remains lost without its powerful lead-in). Boston Legal has always been consistent in its audience, and I don’t see a reason why that should change with a move to Monday (CSI: Miami isn’t much more powerful than Law and Order: SVU).

Predictions: Dancing should remain in the 19-21 million viewer range it’s been in for the last four seasons, and Samantha Who? will probably fall between the 13-14 million and 9-10 million viewers it averaged in fall and spring, respectively. Boston Legal continues to do its thing, with 9-10 million viewers.


08:00 p.m.Opportunity Knocks (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 23)

09:00 p.m.Dancing with the Stars: The Results (Sept. 23)

10:00 p.m.Eli Stone (NEW NIGHT) (Oct. 14)

Analysis: One of only two new shows on the ABC Fall schedule, Opportunity Knocks seems like a cheap, easy filler for what was a troublesome spot for ABC last fall, with Cavemen, Carpoolers and According to Jim all performing horrendously. I doubt Knocks will do much better than those shows (Especially with intense competition from NCIS and House), but again, it should be cheaper. I’m not sure the move for Eli Stone will help much, but it didn’t perform badly after Lost this spring, so they probably felt it had more potential.

Predictions: Again, anything above 7 million should be adequate for Knocks, while the results show for Dancing could go higher than ever with House now at 8:00. As for Eli, I don’t think it’ll last long after Dancing. Maybe it’ll be able to get 8 million viewers or so and decent Demo numbers, but once Dancing is gone, so is the show’s potential.


08:00 p.m.Pushing Daisies (Oct. 1)

09:00 p.m.Private Practice (Oct. 1)

10:00 p.m.Dirty Sexy Money (Oct. 1)

Analysis: Normally when nights stay the same as they were the previous season, there’s not much to discuss. However, these three shows haven’t been on since the end of last year or the very beginning of this year, in a decision to stay off the air post-strike and start anew in the fall. All three shows were average performers in the ratings in one way or another, so their performances depend on whether their long hiatus and shorter seasons will make it easier to grab new fans, or being gone for so long so early in their runs will result in a loss of their only fans.

Predictions: All three shows started their first seasons somewhat strongly, but gradual faded as the fall went on, all hitting series lows on their final episodes. At the moment I’ll play it somewhat safe and predict 9-10 million for Pushing Daisies’ premiere before fading to 8-9 million (Enough to compete for #1 in viewers and the Demo against Bones, Knight Rider, CBS sitcoms...okay, everything in a very weak timeslot), Private Practice should barely stay above 10 million viewers with only Criminal Minds as major competition, and Dirty Sexy Money will continue good-not-great retention from PP with 7-8 million. All three could go either way though.


08:00 p.m.Ugly Betty (Sept. 25)

09:00 p.m.Grey’s Anatomy (Sept. 25)

10:00 p.m.Life on Mars (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 9)

Analysis: A night that two seasons ago looked like the next great programming night has kind of fizzled since, with Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy both losing their critical and commercial buzz (Though the latter has stayed somewhat strong thanks to seemingly endless behind-the-scenes drama), and that 10:00 spot being nigh-impossible to properly program (Lost didn’t do too badly last spring, but that still works better as a 9:00 show). Grey’s Anatomy apparently was getting good again at the end of last season though, so maybe that can work into decent buzz for this season, enough to stay a good second behind CSI for the fall. Meanwhile, Life on Mars hopes to mix procedural crime, long-term genre-flavored mystery and ‘70s nostalgia into something that works, but buzz is pretty bad at the moment.

Predictions: I don’t see good things for Betty despite minimal new competition (Maybe 8-9 million?), but Grey’s could kick off the season with strong-ish numbers (20+ million, with no CSI in its first week), and if it’s good again, it could stay in the 18-19 million viewer range, and still win the fall in the 18-49 Demo, with its only competition coming from House. As for Life on Mars, I can see it surviving the fall with mediocre ratings (Basically retention better than 45%), but come spring, I think Lost will take this timeslot and keep it, leaving Life on Mars without a timeslot and few fans (unless it picks up in quality Office-style, but that seems unlikely).


08:00 p.m.Wife Swap (Oct. 3)

09:00 p.m.Supernanny (Oct. 3)

10:00 p.m.20/20 (Sept. 19)

Analysis: Is there much to analyze? Wife Swap and Supernanny have outlived their FOX twins, and hope to pull in not-terrible numbers on this almost-dead night. 20/20 stays where it’s stayed for many, many seasons.

Predictions: All three pull in not-terrible numbers (5-7 million).


08:00 p.m.Saturday Night College Football (Aug. 30)

Analysis: It doesn’t cost much, and it can sometimes pull in a good audience on a very dead night. What’s not to like?

Predictions: Last season the ratings for this would range from night-losing low (3 million) or decent even to sorta win the night high (7-8 million). I doubt that’ll change.


07:00 p.m.America’s Funniest Home Videos (Oct. 5)

08:00 p.m.Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Sept. 28)

09:00 p.m.Desperate Housewives (Sept. 28)

10:00 p.m.Brothers & Sisters (Sept. 28)

Analysis: Did you know that this is AFHV’s nineteenth season? Man, time flies. (It's also the first TV show I made a point to never miss an episode of, and I was outraged when it didn't get any Emmy nominations! --ed.) Otherwise, this remains the same for the third season in a row, and that should work out fine. The first two hours of family entertainment flowing into two hours of fun for the parents and non-family households is one of the few nights left that works that way, and it would be foolish to fiddle with that. One would think that Makeover would have faded off by now (And maybe it finally will), but again, the flow of this night is unmatchable.

Predictions: The family shows should stay consistent (Makeover could lose some audience, but only down to 10-12 million – not enough to fret over)), while the two adult shows might see upticks, thanks to the buzzed-about time-jump on Housewives (18-20 million) and building buzz of B&S (12-14 million).

Next: CBS wants that #1 spot back. Does it have what it takes to get it?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"The Dark Night" - Gossip Girl, episode 2.3

"The Dark Night" puts almost all of GG's players in the same space for once. Blair is throwing a party that's really just another excuse to show off Marcus. Nate is there juggling Catherine and Vanessa while Chuck lurks around waiting for his chance to get back in Blair's good graces. Meanwhile, Dan and Serena hash out their differences in an elevator after a blackout throws the city into darkness and Jenny impresses Blair's mom (Margaret Colin) with her fashion ideas. But just when I thought irritating new characters Marcus and Catherine might be on their way out, they rally and dig in deeper than ever. That's not the most troubling thing about "The Dark Night" however.....

Up until now, Gossip Girl (the blog within the series voiced by Kristen Bell) has mostly been used to set scenes and provide a bit of sarcastic oomph at the beginning and end of scenes. But the GG site becomes a major factor in this episode after a pedestrian snaps a photo of Dan and Serena kissing. Soon everyone knows that the two are back together and a trio of girls accost Dan and Serena in the park and demand to know how the two think they can work it out after everything that's happened - Serena's wild past, Georgina, etc. Two of the girls take Dan's side, the third is "a Serena" (down to the costume design) and thinks S. should cut Dan loose. This may all seem like an amusing bit of meta-commentary but it falls flat because this is maybe the third time in the series that one of the central characters has actually paid attention to what's online. If this is how it's going to be from now on, soon everyone will be afraid to do anything for fear of ending up online. If we want series about characters who know they're on television, we've got Project Runway for that, right?

I started watching GG as a fan of Blake Lively, but I think I'm slowly becoming a Leighton Meesterite. It's not the performance but the character. Blair wants things and does things and doesn't give a damn who cares, while Serena has been stuck on her wishy-washy setting for awhile. But what (other than the title) does Blair see in Marcus, the effete British lord who won't even sleep with her. Whatever else one might say about Meester, she and Ed Westwick do have a spark. I swear Blair's eyes actually roll back in her head at one point at Chuck's adavnces.

In reading over these recaps, I realize they're really more of a diary of my thoughts about GG than an actual point-by-point recap. If you'd like to see more plot discussion in this space feel free to speak up in the comments (Catherine threatens to reveal the location of Nate's father!!), but I'm assuming anyone who finds their way here has already seen the episode.