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It's less than 72 hours before the official beginning of the 2013 - 2014 US television season, a fact which will delight television fans in the US and around the world. There's a lot of interesting scheduling decisions that networks have made, so how will these decisions play out in terms of the all-important ratings and audience numbers? Lets have a quick look through the schedule.
Monday sees the return of the usual 2 hour live series on ABC and NBC, in the form of Dancing With The Stars and The Voice respectively. DWTS kicked off last Monday to ratings 28% higher than the premiere the same time last year, though it didn't have The Voice to compete against, which won't be the case come this Monday. The Voice always dominated ratings between the two last season, but DWTS had a few million more viewers. I'd expect to see the same again, though the ratings gap may have closed a little if DWTS remains up on last year.
FOX got its Monday schedule underway last week, with the ninth season premiere of Bones, and the series premiere of Sleepy Hollow combining to complete its 2 hours of primetime. Bones' 2.3 rating equaled last season's premiere rating, and the audience was only marginally down. Sleepy Hollow debuted to a massive 3.5 rating and 10.10 million viewers - miles ahead of last season's failed timeslot occupier The Mob Doctor. This is great news for FOX, they will be hoping the pressure from the other networks' shows doesn't squeeze them out like last season.
Monday nights see more freshman shows than any other night for CBS this season, though the genre remains mostly comedy, with How I Met Your Mother and and 2 Broke Girls returning at 8pm and 9pm respectively, and 2 new comedies, We Are Men, and Mom, occupy the 8:30pm and 9:30pm timeslots respectively. We Are Men holds its premiere off a week though, premiering September 30. It's hard to say how these new comedies will perform, but scheduling them in between its well known returning comedies instead of back-to-back is a smart move.
The 10pm timeslot sees some serious competition this season, and it's the timeslot I'll probably be keeping the closest eye on. ABC's second longest running drama, Castle, returns for its sixth season, alongside 2 freshman thriller dramas from CBS and NBC. CBS's Hostages has been poorly promoted, which I believe will cost ratings early, but the shortened season format is attractive, and will allow for a high speed series. You can read my review of the pilot here. It replaces Hawaii Five-0, which has moved to a new timeslot on a new night. NBC's The Blacklist replaces Revolution, which has also shifted nights. More on that later, but expect Castle to be strong early on with the events of last season's finale to be continued this Monday. On the back of a stronger performing Dancing With The Stars, ratings and audience may even rise on last season. The Blacklist will endeavour to capitalise on The Voice's lead-in audience, and the return of James Spader to television will be a massive drawcard. I'd expect The Blacklist to win the timeslot in both ratings and audience, but Castle may edge ahead as the premiere boost wears off. Hostages will probably be the least viewed, but a well known cast will have an impact. It's tough to predict!
Tuesday nights are a mixed bag among the networks. ABC brings an all-new lineup, with the absence of the Dancing With The Stars Results Show freeing up an hour of primetime this season, while CBS's top three dramas bring a combined 16 previous seasons to the table.
The much hyped Agents of SHIELD kicks off ABC's Tuesday lineup, followed by The Goldbergs and The Trophy Wife which share half an hour, leaving Lucky 7 to round out the night at 10pm. It's a foregone conclusion that Agents of SHIELD will be the most popular of the lot because of the buzz it's generated, but there's nothing much about the remaining three that takes my fancy, however Lucky 7 must either be very very good, or the executives have poor taste, because its concept doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.
CBS's NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles return for their 11th and 5th seasons respectively, with the heavily criticised departure of Cote De Pablo ensuring NCIS has remained in the news through the summer months. I'm expecting a pretty large audience turnout for the premiere as a result. At 10pm, my personal favorite series, Person of Interest, begins season 3 after moving in from the Thursdays 9pm timeslot. I have to say I found this scheduling decision rather odd because POI is capable of holding its own ratings and audience without a significant lead-in such as NCIS: LA, but this move will definitely increase the chances of renewal for a fourth season. The last 3 episodes of last season all equaled series low ratings, but given the recent Snowden and NSA allegations, POI is in a perfect position to capitalise. There are also 2 new series regular cast members to up the action as well.
Over on FOX, two freshman comedies in the form of Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, take half an hour each from 8pm, and lead in returning comedies New Girl and The Mindy Project. Like FOX's Monday shows, all four comedies premiered last Monday, with ratings varying between 1.9 and 2.9, with the two freshman comedies taking the #1 and #2 spots between all four. This is a good sign initially for them, but when NCIS kicks off on Tuesday, things may change a bit. NBC has a rather uneventful night, with The Biggest Loser and The Voice Results Show occupying the first 2 hours, and sophomore drama Chicago Fire returning at 10pm. I don't know how Chicago Fire managed to earn a renewal, but that's for another discussion, but I wouldn't have high hopes for its ratings again this season.
Wednesday sees a new show premiering for each network except CBS, with ABC bringing two new series to the table. FOX fills up its 2 hours of primetime with a new season of The X Factor, and NBC's Revolution moves to its new 8pm timeslot - a move I find curious seeing NBC were so intent on ensuring Revolution had the network's best lead-in, in the form of The Voice, that they reduced the season length and inserted a gigantic 17 week midseason gap. It's hard to tell how well the series will rate in its new timeslot, and there will be the typical debate of whether the violent content Revolution has in it is suitable for early evening television. Either way, this season will make or break the show. Meanwhile, at 9pm, another season of Law & Order: SVU launches at 9pm, and leads in NBC's remake of the 1960's crime drama, Ironside, which premieres the following Wednesday.
CBS maintains the same Wednesday schedule it had last season, with the 27th season of Survivor opening its night at 8pm. A ninth season of Criminal Minds follows on, and leads in the fourteenth season of CSI. If last season is anything to go by, all these shows will be pretty stable week to week.
ABC's primarily comedy night consists of 5 shows, with The Middle returning at 8pm for a fourth season, leading in freshman sitcom Back In The Game at 8:30pm. The Middle saw a lot of fluctuation in ratings last season, but should be strong enough to lead in Back In The Game. At 9pm, ABC's highest rating series Modern Family returns for a fifth season, and will lead in freshman Rebel Wilson led sitcom Super Fun Night - a show critics don't have much good to say about. Sophomore musical drama Nashville rounds out the night, and its fans will be hoping for a lift in ratings, because the last 10 episodes of the first season didn't equal or break the 2.0 rating mark.
It's a night of variety on Thursday, with ABC's strongest drama night of the week, and CBS's strongest comedy night of the week. FOX begins its night with The X Factor Results Show, which leads in the fifth and second-last season of musical comedy-drama Glee, with Cory Monteith no longer a member of the series following his death a few months back. Glee season premieres typically rate and ratings are reasonable the first few weeks, but then they away, and this trend may continue this season as well.
CBS kicks off its comedy line-up with ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory. Freshman series The Millers and The Crazy Ones take half an hour consecutively, and should be helped along nicely by the lead-in audience The Big Bang Theory will provide. The 9:30pm timeslot is occupied by the 11th season of Two and a Half Men, which held the 8:30pm timeslot last season. It's worth noting the absence of Person of Interest which has shifted to Tuesdays, and led in another of my CBS favorites, the now sophomore drama, Elementary, which remains at 10pm. Elementary maintained a consistent rating and audience throughout the first two thirds of the season before tailing off to a season finale 1.1 ratings points below the series premiere. The effect the switch of lead-in genre from drama (Person of Interest) to comedy (Two and a Half Men) is something I'll be watching closely.
ABC has a pretty good night in store for drama fans, and those who follow Once Upon A Time will be keeping a close eye on its spinoff, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. I do find it strange that the Once Upon A Time series hasn't been shifted from it Sunday timeslot to lead in the spinoff, or air the night before, which would be taking a page from CBS's playbook and their successful NCIS spinoffs. Meanwhile, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland leads in the tenth season of Grey's Anatomy, which typically rates very highly in the first few weeks before settling down. The show managed double figure audience figures only twice last season (episodes 1 & 2) which reflects this trend. ABC's best drama, and one of the shows many TV fans are talking about, Scandal, continues at 10pm. Scandal actually rated higher than its lead-in, Grey's Anatomy a couple of times last season, and I've got no doubt that it pull that off once again.
Over on NBC, the night is filled with comedy, beginning with Parks & Recreation, which is into its sixth season. Three new half hour comedies follow, in the form of Welcome To The Family, Sean Saves The World and The Michael J. Fox Show. The former two begin Thursday week, but The Michael J Fox Show kicks off this week, along with Parks & Recreation. The 10pm timeslot is occupied by Parenthood, now into its fifth season. I would be amazed if any of these shows manage to pass the 2.0 ratings mark given the competition from CBS and ABC, but you never know.
Fridays are pretty quiet for all the networks. CBS's Hawaii Five-0 makes the move from Mondays 10pm to Fridays 9pm, where freshman Hostages takes its place. After a poorly rating first season, ABC's science fiction sitcom The Neighbors makes the move from early early Wednesdays to Fridays at 8:30pm. NBC's Grimm premieres in 4 weeks time at 9pm, and will lead in British produced freshman series Dracula, which premieres this Friday.
Skipping Saturdays, let's look at Sundays. The original Once Upon A Time premieres for its third season, and like I said earlier, I'm a little surprised ABC didn't move it to a weekday timeslot to lead in its spinoff. Nevertheless, Revenge remains in the 9pm timeslot, and will be asked to lead Sunday's only freshman series, serial drama Betrayal. I might check this series out if I can find the time. At the moment, Betrayal has a 13 episode order, so ABC will have to find a replacement midseason should it not rate well, which wouldn't be entirely surprising considering how Once Upon A Time and Revenge performed towards the latter end of last season.
Over on CBS, The Good Wife and The Mentalist combine from 9-11pm. It looks increasingly likely that this season of The Mentalist will be its last, given the departure of two of the leads at the end of this season, and the plans by the creators to reveal who the infamous Red John is. CBS succeeded in destroying the ratings of a series which was once watched by 15 million people each week by moving it to Sundays.
Meanwhile, FOX continues its animated comedy on Sundays, with The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, Family Guy, and American Dad! airing in that order for half an hour each from 8pm
So there we have it, that's a basic rundown of this season's fall schedule and what could happen. What shows are you looking forward to, and what decisions by the networks do you or do you not like? Have your say in the comments below.
Remember you can see comprehensive ratings data, statistics and analysis for many of the shows I've discussed on my website, www.seriesmonitor.com
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