To ABC: A Suggested Fall Schedule (De-Erraticizing Your Mondays and Your Tuesdays)

posted Feb 20, 2013, 8:59 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 20, 2013, 9:43 PM ]

Last week Les Moonves, the grand poobah of CBS, was speaking to analysts about his #1 ranked network. He claimed that they weren’t going to need very much for the fall by way of new programming.

While CBS is still by far the most stable of the networks in terms of both ratings and programming, such a claim would have been more true a couple of years ago than today.

I started thinking about what CBS is really facing and what I would suggest for the fall. I decided I had to do the same thing for NBC, ABC and FOX. I don’t bother with the CW. I don’t consider that a broadcast network its niche targeting and inability to effectively program TEN primetime hours (less than half that of the Big Three) without resorting to clones and remakes.

These suggested schedules are built on three things: what I think best pilot premises are and existing shows worth renewing. I largely veered away from concepts that sounded derivative, limited in premise, too high-concept or unnecessarily violent. You’ll notice that I am a bit of a purist when it comes to marrying formats together between multi-camera comedies and single-camera comedies.

I don’t take into consideration any deals with producers and studios or other financial matters because I either don’t know, don’t care or just abjectly hate the concept they’ve managed to pitch to pilot. I also don’t take into consideration the execution of the pilot because I’m probably not going to be able to see them anyway. Keep in mind that all of this is based on the information I have at my disposal -- largely from deadline.com.

Lastly, I don’t take into consideration A1849 ratings because it’s an outdated demo that the networks all need to abandon in favor of A35+, a more relevant demographic given the fact that those “valuable and elusive younger viewers” do not watch television the same way adult viewers do AND NEVER WILL.

New shows are highlighted in yellow. Returning shows with new time slots are CAPITALIZED. New show descriptions follow each night with rationale for why a certain show was scheduled for a certain time slot or otherwise moved to a new one.

General network notes come at the end.

We’ll see how my schedules compare to the actual fall schedules when they are unveiled in May.


ABC 

ABC has the same problem with Dancing with the Stars that NBC has with The Voice in terms of what to do during their off-cycles. While NBC attempts to launch new programs – albeit unsuccessfully -- ABC, like FOX, winds up with an unnecessarily erratic schedule.

I’ve solved this problem for NBC by scheduling only one cycle of The Voice and am doing the same thing for ABC by scheduling only one cycle of Dancing with the Stars.

The result is a lot of shuffling, a lot of unlikely renewals and eight pilot pickups (six comedies and two dramas) – but far less erraticism with the scheduling.  

Here is a link to all the pilots ordered by ABC. See if you agree with my choices. http://www.deadline.com/2013-abc-pilots/


MONDAY

                                       (Fall)                                                               (Winter/Spring)
                                       8pm – Dancing with the Stars                    8pm – LAST MAN STANDING / MALIBU COUNTRY
                                       10pm - Castle                                                9pm – BODY OF PROOF
                                                                                                               10pm - Castle

- The fall remains unchanged.

- With Stars out of the winter/spring mix, I pulled the largely self-starting Last Man Standing and the highly compatible Malibu Country (both family-oriented multi-camera comedies) from the Friday doldrums because ABC shouldn’t program that night with scripted programming if they aren’t going to go whole hog with it by rebooting their storied TGIF franchise or something similar. But with an entire cable network (and a sister one at that) dedicated to that type of programming geared toward that type of audience, such a relaunch is both ill-advised and unnecessary.

- That first hour of comedy leads into the retooled Body of Proof, which might could actually generate an audience given some consistency of format, scheduling and compatibility with its lead-out Castle (now that Proof has added romantic elements to its storyline).

- Just as ABC wisely stuck with Castle until it was better able to sustain its own audience without a Stars lead-in, ABC can do the same with Proof until it brings an its own audience to the hour and to the night.

- Unlike last fall’s cannibalizing comedy glut at the 9pm on Tuesdays between NBC, ABC and FOX, this comedy glut in the 8pm hour on Mondays targets different audiences. CBS’s hour is more male-skewing, NBC’s is decidedly more female-skewing and ABC’s is geared more toward families. Such is the beauty of going collectively for VIEWERS instead of one set of DEMOS. 


TUESDAY

                                     (Fall)                                                                  (Winter/Spring)
                                     8pm – Dancing with the Stars                       8pm – HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS /
                                     9pm – Divorce: A Love Story /                                           Cullen Brothers Show
                                                       Middle Age Rage                           9pm – Divorce: A Love Story /
                                     10pm – The Returned                                                     Middle Age Rage
                                                                                                                10pm – The Returned

- While The Voice on NBC can only be used to promote new shows on the spring schedule toward the end of its fall run (so as to not jeopardize current shows in need of the support), ABC has the good fortune of using Stars to introduce three new programs in the fall, establish them (hopefully) and then introduce a fourth in the winter.

- Out of the female-skewing Stars are two female-skewing comedies. I was willing to break my format rule here since this is quite experimental for ABC and requires a lot of the aging Stars.

- If Body of Proof didn’t need the Castle lead-out, one of them could close out the night. However, with the popularity of The Walking Dead on ABC and HBO’s success with True Blood, The Returned might have some self-starting power without having to rely on Stars as much as the comedies in the 9pm hour.

- How to Live with Your Parents starring Sarah Chalke (of Roseanne, Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother fame) hasn’t premiered yet but it’s a great concept and similar in theme to the as-of-yet untitled fourth new series being introduced to the night. They replace Stars for the winter/spring and lead into the other three programs introduced in the fall that will hopefully be well-established by the winter/spring. It’s a gamble for ABC, but a worthy gamble to de-erraticize their Tuesday schedule.

- As with NBC, ABC will just have to concede the night to CBS -- but that doesn’t mean ABC and NBC have to fight for eyeballs. There may be some overlap in gender skew in the 9pm hour with Parenthood on NBC, but not enough to cannibalize each other – especially given the fact that one hour is comedy and one hour is drama.

Divorce: A Love Story: A recently divorced couple were bad together but discover they’re even worse apart and can’t seem to stay out of each others’ lives. Based on Israeli format Life Isn’t Everything. (multi-camera comedy)

Middle Age Rage: Chronicles what happens when a middle-aged wife and mother is fed up with feeling invisible and begins to speak up and demand the respect she feels she’s earned. (single-camera comedy)

The Returned: What happens when the people you have mourned and buried suddenly appear on your doorstep as if not a day’s gone by? The lives of the people of Aurora are forever changed when their deceased loved ones, RETURN… Based on a novel by Jason Mott. (drama)

Cullen Brothers Show: A recently divorced single mother temporarily moves in with her estranged father, a beer-swilling former baseball player. She reluctantly starts coaching her son’s underdog Little League team and is drawn back into the world of sports she vowed to leave behind. (single-camera comedy)


WEDNESDAY

8pm – The Middle / Suburgatory
9pm – Modern Family / Trophy Wife
10pm – Lucky 7 

- Four years ago, ABC introduced an ENTIRE night of new programs. Though only two survive, one is the breakout Modern Family – which has been a top-rated 9pm performer since day one. The other is the underrated and overlooked but reliable The Middle at 8pm. 8:30, 9:30 and 10pm have been troublesome though – especially 9:30, because it’s very difficult to find a lead-out that can hold the audience of a breakout hit. With that in mind, it’s still worth giving new programs the opportunity to gain ratings traction in that tough lead-out position. Zeroing in on a very minor element of Modern Family, Trophy Wife is in that lead-out hot seat.

- With 8:30 less critical, Suburgatory (somehow more compatible with small-town The Middle than large city Modern Family despite the posh, upper class similarity) returns to lead-out of The Middle and into the self-starting Modern Family.

- Continuing the night’s general theme of financial means and access is the network’s only other new drama, which is in the unenviable position of maintaining whatever audience its 9:30 lead-in doesn’t squander from its own 9pm tentpole lead-in.

Trophy Wife: Reformed party girl Kate finds herself with an insta-family when she falls in love with a man with three manipulative kids and two judgmental ex-wives. (single-camera comedy)

Lucky 7: The lives of seven employees of a service station in Queens are changed in many unexpected ways when they win a lottery jackpot. Each episode centers on a different character, and each season will follow a different group in similar circumstance. Based on the UK series The Syndicate. (drama)


THURSDAY

8pm – John Leguizamo Show / How the Hell Am I Normal?
9pm – Grey’s Anatomy
10pm – Scandal 

- As is the case with Modern Family on Wednesday, ABC has tentpole stability with Grey’s Anatomy – which broke out eight years ago on Sundays. It was relocated to Thursdays at 9 in the fall of 2006. Since then, the long-running drama has provided the network with an in-road on this all-important night.

- Unlike Wednesdays at 8, Thursdays at 8 have been a sore spot since Ugly Betty was erroneously shifted to Fridays in the fall of 2009. Largely male-skewing dramas such as Flash Forward, The Deep End, My Generation, Charlie’s Angels, Missing and Last Resort have all failed in the time slot. New entry Zero Hour is also struggling.

- So it’s time to re-introduce comedy into the time slot – the first since the female-skewing In the Motherhood and Samantha Who? in the spring of 2009 (between Ugly Betty and the ever-growing list of failed male-skewing dramas).

- Since neither female-centric comedies nor male-centric dramas have worked in the time slot, perhaps family-centric will. Both the untitled Leguizamo show and Normal are based on the respective family lives of star/writer/executive producer Leguizamo and writer/executive producer Adam F. Goldberg (creator of FOX’s Breaking In starring Christian Slater). Though Leguizamo’s show is a multi-camera comedy and Normal is a single-camera comedy, I broke my format rule due to the largely experimental nature of ABC’s comedy launch in this troublesome hour and the similarity of their family-oriented themes.

- As is the case with NBC in the 8pm hour, ABC will also have to defer to CBS’s Big Bang Theory, which will continue to dominate the time period. As is the case with many crowded time periods, the family-oriented nature of this hour will draw a different audience than CBS’s time period leader and NBC’s comedies of limited appeal.

- This “experimental” hour of new comedies leads into the reliable Grey’s Anatomy and the surging Scandal. If the latter series continues its upward trend, it will either swap slots with its declining Grey’s or replace it altogether once it goes off the air within the next couple of years. In reality, ABC would be wise to keep Scandal in its current timeslot and resist the temptation to send it to help stem the network’s ratings losses on Sundays.

John Leguizamo Show: Based on John Leguizamo’s life as a husband, father and fish out of water on the upper West Side of New York as reflected in his one-person shows. (multi-camera comedy)

How the Hell Am I Normal?: Family comedy set in the ’80s that centers on an in-your-face mother and hot-tempered father who love their three eccentric kids so much, they can’t bear to see them grow up; inspired by Goldberg’s experience growing up in the ’80s with a highly screwed up but loving family (single-camera comedy)


FRIDAY

                                                          (Fall)                                                      (Winter/Spring)
                                                          8pm – SHARK TANK                         8pm – THE TASTE
                                                          9pm – THE BACHELOR                    9pm – Celebrity Wife Swap
                                                          10pm – 20/20                                     10pm – 20/20

- Since there is no reason for ABC to attempt another TGIF relaunch -- especially since I sent Last Man Standing and Malibu Country to Monday nights in the winter/spring – ABC would be wise to join NBC in leaving this night to its hateful unscripted programs until it is able to stabilize its other nights.

- Remember Alex Michel? He was the first “Bachelor” back in 2002. Just thought I'd share.

 

SATURDAY

8pm – Movie

- On this largely dead night of television, ABC has been running theatricals. There is no reason for this to change. I wouldn’t even run encores here because its new Tuesday shows should have plenty of post-Stars exposure while its new Wednesday shows should be able to do the same airing out of Modern Family.

 

SUNDAY

7pm – America’s Funniest Home Videos
8pm – Once Upon a Time
9pm – Revenge
10pm – NASHVILLE 

- Moving Revenge from Wednesdays at 10pm to help fill in the gap left by the departed Desperate Housewives last year was a great idea. But the second-year show suffered some ratings losses – perhaps because of some creative stagnation. A slight tweak in creative focus may help the show in its third year. Still, the slightly catty elements of the fantastical Once Upon a Time make for some solid compatibility with Revenge.

- It is those slightly catty elements that make Nashville a great fit out of Revenge. Both originated in the Wednesday 10pm slot but have never aired together – until now.

 

General notes: 

- Happy Endings is not on this schedule because its pending move to Fridays is essentially the bell tolling for the third-year comedy. I recently started watching the show but its niche brand of humor, even after initially airing out of Modern Family, keeps it from ever breaking out. Having to lead an hour of comedy on Tuesday nights against similar-skewing hours on NBC and FOX didn’t help.

-  I also cancelled The Neighbors. I don’t care what its ratings are on Wednesday nights. That show is not going on this schedule.

- I also left off The Family Tools. Since its order was already reduced before air, ABC must not have a lot of faith in it and will more or less just be airing the episodes it has produced with minimal promotion or support. It’s a shame, too. I have really liked series star Kyle Bornheimer since he starred in Worst Week, CBS last attempt at single-camera comedy four years ago.

- Given the low-rated debut of Zero Hour on Thursdays at 8 coupled with its limited premise, it also doesn’t appear on this schedule.

- Like NBC, ABC would be greatly served by taking some of their limited premises, settling with the producers on a specified number of episodes and airing them. 

- Though I understand it, I still don’t like the fact that Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 was cancelled.


Monday: CBS

Tuesday: NBC

Next Up:
Thursday - FOX

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