Monday, September 22, 2008

NBC: A Look Ahead (2008-09)

I'm sure there's a lot to say about NBC and why it's in such a terrible state at the moment, but so much has been covered about that over the last 3-4 years, and I already have this in-depth schedule analysis, so I'll get right to it. And here it is!

– Chuck (Sept. 29)

09:00 p.m. – Heroes (Sept. 22)

10:00 p.m. – My Own Worst Enemy (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 13)

Analysis: If there’s a new show with the most awareness at this point, it’s got to be My Own Worst Enemy, thanks to nonstop, endless Olympic ads. I’m not sure that awareness will translate to good ratings, but I’ll predict that in a moment. Anyhow, the first two hours remain the same, as they probably should. Chuck faces the same problem as ABC Wednesdays in trying to get back its audience from over nine months ago by the time it premieres. Heroes also has a problem of bringing back its audience, but that’s less to do with a nine-month hiatus and more with that second season of not-good-quality.

Predictions: Chuck is in one of the toughest timeslots this fall, so anything above 7 million viewers, plus good quality, should keep it alive. Heroes has the potential of 24 to be able to get viewers back at the beginning of the season with a whole new adventure (in this case moving onto the more traditional supervillains), but I’m not sure that’ll work out. It should at least start the season strong (12+ million viewers) before fading to around 8-10 million viewers for the rest of the fall, and maybe even farther in the spring if quality doesn’t pick up. As for My Own Worst Enemy, I actually see that having a good premiere (Over 10 million viewers, which will be good for a new series this fall), but I can’t see it surviving after that (6-7 million).


08:00 p.m. – The Biggest Loser: Families (Sept. 16)

10:00 p.m. – Law and Order: SVU (Sept. 23)

Analysis: Yes, you’re reading that correctly, Biggest Loser is scheduled for two hours every week this fall. It’s not a BAD move, really. Tuesdays are a terrible night for NBC, and Biggest Loser has always performed pretty well when extended. SVU has been losing viewers, but after ten seasons, that’s pretty much expected. It’s still the network’s most consistent drama.

Predictions: Biggest Loser will probably be mostly unimpressive, with around 7 million viewers before peaking with its finale. (The finale for this show is always impressively good.) SVU will finally face some sort of competition from CBS with Without a Trace, but so long as it maintains around 11-12 million viewers like I expect, it’ll be fine.


08:00 p.m. – Knight Rider (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 24)

09:00 p.m. – Deal or No Deal (NEW TIME) (TBD)

10:00 p.m. – Lipstick Jungle (NEW NIGHT) (Sept. 24)

Analysis: Outside of Deal or No Deal, Wednesdays have been pretty problematic for NBC as of late. Knight Rider gets its own series after the semi-success of the TV Movie way back in February (12.6 million viewers WOULD be quite an improvement over their past Wednesday programming), but I’m not sure how well that will work out. And Lipstick Jungle got renewed for some reason that still perplexes me.

Predictions: Knight Rider will compete with Bones and Pushing Daisies for the Demo title at 8:00, but I think it’ll ultimately lose most of its TV Movie audience over time, dropping to around 6-7 million, Bionic Woman-style. DOND will quietly perform well enough at 9:00 (9-11 million), and Lipstick Jungle will get cannibalized (ho ho, cannibals, jungles…yeah) by CSI: NY and Dirty Sexy Money (5-6 million).


08:00 – My Name is Earl (Sept. 25)

08:30 – Kath and Kim (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 9)

09:00 – The Office (Sept. 25)

09:30 – Thursday Night Live (LIMITED SERIES (Oct. 9)/30 Rock (Oct. 30)

10:00 – E.R. (Sept. 25)

Analysis: Once the most powerful and most-feared night on television, NBC Thursdays is now only a shadow of its former self, a cautionary tale of what a little mismanagement can do to a seemingly indestructible night, and how hard that can be to rebuild. Luckily NBC seems to slowly be taking some steps in the right direction, first by trying to make The Office its tentpole show with a little help from a post-Super Bowl episode, and FINALLY deciding to end E.R., about three seasons too late (Could you imagine how big a finale would’ve been back in way, 2005 or 2006? Bigger than this ending will be). Kath and Kim looks like a bust (As much as I love Molly Shannon), but that was a holdover from the previous pilot season. With proper comedy development, they could eventually stage a coup on the night that has mostly been ABC vs. CBS these last two seasons.

Predictions: Last year I predicted Earl to finally end in its third season. At the moment I think it’ll survive to its fifth season (If only because it’s hard to justify canceling it and not 30 Rock), but I don’t expect much more than 7 million. Kath and Kim will premiere well, but fade to around 6 million. The Office still has potential, but I think we’ll have to wait until the spring to see how much it has, so until then it should stay level with last season (8-9 million), while 30 Rock MIGHT find some help from its Emmy wins with say, 7 million viewers (Give or take half a million), and E.R. performs not that well for most of the fall (9-10 million).


08:00 – Crusoe (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 17)

09:00America’s Toughest Jobs (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 19 @ 8:00; Oct. 17 @ 9:00; Special Premiere on Aug. 25)

10:00 – Life (Oct. 3, Special Premiere on Sept. 29)

In an attempt to rejuvenate Fridays, NBC is planning some very confusing programming. First America’s Toughest Jobs premiered on Monday at 9:00, and will ran there until Heroes returned, and now it moves here on Sept 19 at 8:00 for four weeks before moving up an hour to 9:00 for Crusoe. Meanwhile, Life airs after Heroes for two Mondays before moving over here to Fridays. Perhaps the most confusing thing of all this night? The idea that a new take on Robinson Crusoe will work on Fridays. I still don’t get that.

Predictions: I can’t see Crusoe lasting long at all, maybe getting 5-6 million before NBC cancels/postpones it for Deal or No Deal or Friday Night Lights sometime in November. America’s Toughest Jobs has some confusing scheduling, but it appears to have been DOA anyway, getting less than 5 million viewers last Monday, so, flop. And finally, Life actually didn’t perform that badly on Wednesdays (Increasing out of Bionic Woman near the end of its run), and might find a niche at around 7 million on Fridays that works for it.


08:00 – Dateline NBC

09:00 – Knight Rider encores

10:00 – Law & Order: SVI encores

Analysis: Eh?

Predictions: 4-5 million for all. Probably less.


07:00 p.m. – Football Night in America (Sept. 7)

08:20 p.m. – Sunday Night Football (Sept. 7)

Analysis: It’s Football. What is there to analyze? Maybe I could check out the midseason schedule, but I have major doubts about how that will hold up.

Predictions: 10 million at its worst, 20+ million at its strongest. Not much else to it.

Tomorrow: A quick recap on how early birds FOX and CW are holding up. (And can The CW survive the decade??)


"The Ex-Files" - Gossip Girl, episode 2.4

Harry Dean Stanton, Paris, Texas, Rilke, bioterrorism, and....high school? We're back! "The Ex-Files" rockets Gossip Girl out of what had been to my mind a rather humdrum second season into Upper East Side high school fantasy stratosphere. Read on to find out the juicy details....

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Gossip Girl needed the social strictures of high school to give its characters something to work against. After all, it's the gap between social worlds of slightly pretentious, artsy, Brooklyn Dan and recovering party girl/ice princess that has provided much of the tension up to this point. So, it's a relief to find the GG gang gathered back at school for the first day of senior year. But surely, you're thinking, Dan and Serena are such inherently good-hearted people that they'll make the best of a bad situation, right? Guess again....

Last week I complained that giving GG a "meta" angle - "fans" of the fictional website commenting on the action - was a mistake, and thankfully that has been dialed back for the moment. The manipulation of technology was a theme this week. Vanessa catches Catherine and Marcus in the throes of passion (I knew it! Thank goodness those two are gone) and uses a photo to attempt to win freedom for Nate's family. An uneasy alliance is formed between Vanessa and Blair, but in the world of GG trust is impossible between two people from different boroughs. Vanessa overplays her hand and has apparently ruined the chances of Nate's family for a financial comeback and scotched her opportunity for a romance with Nate. I guess illicit photos are just so Upper East Side.

"The Ex-Files" also finds Chuck Bass back in top form, though that purple suit won't do anything to tamp down those gay rumors. Chuck's photo of a Dan and Serena sets off the rumor mill and puts the pressure on S. to fall back on her elite social circle. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but on a show where everyone's motives are usually so transparent the reveal about Chuck's manipulation of the Dan-Serena detente was a surprise. Amanda, the girl Chuck hires to distract Dan, even can throw around references to Rilke and the novelist Dan spent his summer with. Nice work Mr. Bass. Of course, all Chuck's plans are really aimed at knocking Blair off her Mean Girl throne. (I wanted more of Blair's "screening process for the ascendant In Crowd girls) If the promos for next week are to be believed, he has succeeded. With Blair threatened, Serena on top, and Dan mopey, this is the GG we want. Fun, mean, self-aware (in just the right amount), and pulling no punches. I can't wait.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Look Ahead: CBS 2008-09

For five seasons, CBS was able to take pride in the fact that even as NBC, ABC and FOX all trumped it in buzz and demos, it was still #1 among total viewers, even as FOX closed the gap at the end of every season thanks to Idol-mania. It's also been the most consistent. Consider Fall 2005. The most talked about new shows were Commander-in-Chief and My Name is Earl, but you know what the biggest show from that season is now? A Mandy Patinkin-less Criminal Minds.

Still, even with this bliss, last season was the first season since 2001-2002 that the Eye had to settle for second, to a stable FOX that remained strong throughout the strike. Whether CBS can claim back that slot remains to be seen, so we take a look at its fall schedule for an idea...


08:00 p.m.The Big Bang Theory (Sept. 22)

08:30 p.m.How I Met Your Mother (Sept. 22)

09:00 p.m.Two and a Half Men (Sept. 22)

09:30 p.m.Worst Week (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 22)

10:00 p.m.CSI: Miami (Sept. 22)

One of only two two-hour comedy blocs left on TV, CBS Monday is also the only really successful one of the two, thanks almost entirely to Two and a Half Men being the only real sitcom hit left on television (The Office has the demo numbers of a sitcom hit, but not the total viewers), which usually helps out whatever comedy it’s leading into. In this case, CBS tries to boldly step into the scary, laugh-track free world of sitcoms with Worst Week. Otherwise, the night remains same-old, same-old (which is probably ultimately a good thing, since How I Met Your Mother factors into that same-old).

Predictions: All the returning shows should remain where they were viewers-wise last season (BBT/HIMYM, 8-9 million; 2.5 Men, 13-15 million; CSI: Miami, 14-16 million), so it’s all about Worst Week, really. I don’t see any real reason it shouldn’t perform as well as most 2.5Men lead-outs, even with the laugh-track-less-ness. So, about 10-12 million, though I doubt it’ll launch CBS into a major craze for the format.


08:00 p.m.NCIS (Sept. 23)

09:00 p.m.The Mentalist (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 23)

10:00 p.m.Without a Trace (NEW NIGHT) (Sept. 23)

Little known fact: NCIS was ranked fourteenth among all shows last season in total viewers, but most failed to notice that it was also the FIFTH most watched scripted show, behind only House, Desperate Housewives, CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. Basically, you have four of TV’s most talked about shows…and NCIS. Kinda weird. Still, it’ll actually be facing one of those shows (House) for at least the first part of the season, so it should be interesting to see how that battle goes down. As for The Mentalist, Simon Baker had success in this timeslot with The Guardian some seasons back, though it’s questionable how much appeal a truthful take on USA’s Psych will have. And Without a Trace at 10:00 is actually a pretty smart move for such a troubled timeslot. Maybe CBS will finally find success?

Predictions: Before the numbers for House this week I figured NCIS might have to settle for second in total viewers, but with House apparently down from last fall, NCIS might be able to pull off one of those weird CBS victories in total viewers, with 15-17 million over the course of the fall (Reaching 18 million on those House-less weeks). The Mentalist will be around 9-10 million, down from The Unit, and not that impressive for a network like CBS. And Without a Trace will probably lose viewers (It IS going into its seventh season), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it can win the timeslot from the even older SVU with about 12 million.


08:00 p.m.The New Adventures of Old Christine (NEW NIGHT/TIME) (Sept. 24)

08:30 p.m.Gary Unmarried (NEW SERIES) (Sept. 24)

09:00 p.m.Criminal Minds (Sept. 24)

10:00 p.m.CSI: NY (Sept. 24)

Once again CBS tries a comedy hour outside of Monday, but these very rarely work out. Some perform decently, but for a timeslot where none of the programs on any of the networks will probably top 10 million, it seems oddly competitive, which won’t help the two sitcoms. Criminal Minds and NY have been a strong duo, so keeping them here was a no-brainer.

Predictions: Both sitcoms should have adequate numbers, but only Old Christine will probably survive the season, as it’s only two full seasons away from syndication. Criminal Minds and CSI: NY do their thing, with 13-15 million and 12-14 million respectively.


08:00 p.m.Survivor: China (debuted Sept. 18)

09:00 p.m.CSI (Oct. 9)

10:00 p.m.Eleventh Hour (NEW SERIES (Oct. 9)

Even though it should continue to live a long, quiet life in primetime, I feel like this will be the last season anyone really cares about CSI. Kind of like how ER stopped being a big deal after Friends was canceled and NBC Thursdays fell apart, or how The Bachelor has gone from TV phenomenon to quiet Dancing with the Stars lead-out, once Grissom is off the show, CSI will become one of those shows that, four or five years from now your average show will be flipping through channels in primetime, come across Marg Helgenberger and some newbie solving a crime, and go “Hey, this is still on?” It’s something random to consider, but how else am I gonna fill this space, discussing Eleventh Hour’s unlikelihood of catching on?

Predictions: The final Grissom-lead episodes of CSI will probably also be the final ones to top 20 million viewers, and if marketed correctly, that final episode could be big (The scheduling would point to a January airing, depending on postponement of episodes and such). Survivor should stay in the 14 million viewer range, enough to win its hour for about the fifth season in a row. As for Eleventh Hour, its competition isn’t much, but like Shark it’s going to be nothing without CSI. I’m guessing sometime at midseason it’ll be replaced by the impressive summer performer Flashpoint.


08:00 p.m.Ghost Whisperer (Oct. 3)

09:00 p.m.The Ex-List (NEW SERIES) (Oct. 3)

10:00 p.m.Numb3rs (Oct. 3)

I still think CBS made a mistake canceling Close to Home two seasons ago, as that show along the two returning shows here made for a strong Friday night, and Moonlight didn’t get much more than a cult following, while this new show The Ex-List, part My Name is Earl, part How I Met Your Mother, stretched to an hour, doesn’t seem like a big long term hit.

Predictions: Now, that’s LONG TERM, not short term. I’m not ruling out the possibility of a surprisingly strong debut number, maybe over 10 million, but by the end of the season I don’t see it justifying a second season. So, maybe around 8 million when it’s all said and done. Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs stay in the 9-10 million and 10-12 million range respectively.


08:00 p.m.Crimetime Saturday

10:00 p.m.48 Hours (Sept. 27)

That this will probably be the strongest line-up on Saturday is kinda sad, but what works, works, I guess.

Predictions: 5-8 million for the line-up.


07:00 p.m.60 Minutes

08:00 p.m.The Amazing Race

09:00 p.m.Cold Case

10:00 p.m.The Unit (NEW NIGHT/TIME)

This has been a pretty consistent night for the last two seasons since the Sunday Night Movie was scrapped, with the exception of that final hour. But the first three work well enough that tinkering wasn’t really necessary (Though The Amazing Race always being preempted for Football can be peeving). I’m not sure The Unit will help things, but it was performing well enough last season to justify some sort of renewal.

Predictions: The first three hours should continue to do well enough (60 Minutes, 12-16 million; Amazing Race, 10-12 million; Cold Case, 13-16 million), though The Unit will probably have to settle for last in the demo and possibly viewers in its timeslot (9-11 million), so its fate depends on how strong CBS ultimately is at the end of the season, I guess.

Next: NBC hopes to prove it's not all about the Olympics and Football in the fall, with questionable results.