Welcome to the new broadcast television season, same as the old season…pretty much.
True, some 36 new scripted additions are due to join the primetime schedules of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and The CW over the course of the 2012-2013 primetime season. Fifteen of those are comedies, seven of which will be coming to us (assuming they even see the light of day) from NBC. Surely within those ranks are a few shows we’ll come to love.
As we compare and contrast the schedules of the Big Four, here are a few bright spots — and glaring problem areas — that stand out.
ABC Serves Up “Revenge” on Sunday Nights
Clearly ABC is done with housewives. “Desperate” is dead, and “GCB” has passed on. Instead, the sleeper hit “Revenge” is ABC’s new Sunday night anchor, followed by the devilish thriller “666 Park Avenue,” which could work beautifully together or come off as strangely as Emily Thorne attending high tea with the witches of “Eastwick.”
Tuesday Night: Comedy Feast, or Fustercluck?
Rare are the seasons when nearly every network does not have the same bright idea. And the big one for 2012-2013 appears to be Tuesday nights as a comedy destination. You can thank “New Girl” and “Glee” for lighting that candle.
Fox is capitalizing on that small victory by building a full night of comedy, slotting the new series “Ben and Kate” after the underrated “Raising Hope,” with Mindy Kaling‘s new comedy “The Mindy Project” following “New Girl” in the 9 o’clock hour, and shifting “Glee” to the Thursday night battleground.
ABC is offering some competition in the form of “Happy Endings,” switching from Wednesday nights to 9pm Tuesdays followed fellow Hump Day comedy “Don’t Trust the B—” at 9:30pm. Like “New Girl” and “Mindy,” the ABC comedies are compatible, female-friendly and, even more daunting for “The Mindy Project’s” prospects, road tested.
Then NBC is jumping into the fray with the Matthew Perry vehicle “Go On” and executive producer Ryan Murphy‘s comedy “The New Normal.” Having Matthew Perry headline a sitcom does not guarantee success (“Mr. Sunshine,” anyone?), but what it and “Normal” have in their favor is higher testosterone levels. Something has to counteract all of that “adorkableness” (and yes, we’re as sick of that stupid pop-culture term as you are).
But Tuesday is not necessarily the new “must-see comedy” night. ABC has a full sitcom block on Wednesdays from 8pm to 10pm,with “Modern Family” at its core, and is adding “The Neighbors,” which gives us another round of “aliens next door” humor. “The Neighbors” is already looking like the show critics can’t wait to hate on. But remember, critics also hated “3rd Rock from the Sun” — which aired for six seasons.
NBC still has brand-recognition its Thursday night comedy block, which continues to exist only because nobody can remember a time when it didn’t. Instead of giving up on sitcoms the network is doubling down for 2012-2013. The only nights on NBC’s schedule without any sitcom presence are Sundays and Mondays.
So yeah, lots of comedy options. Maybe even too many. But we’re guessing the field will thin out by the holiday season. If not, you can color us pleasantly surprised.
The 10 o’clock Slots: The most important timeslot for network affiliates, a badly-under-performing 10pm series can be ratings poison for local newscasters. And while some networks have the 10pm slot locked down on most nights, others remain very much up-for-grabs. Keep an eye on these.
10pm Mondays: ABC’s got “Castle.” CBS has “Hawaii Five-O.” With crime drama territory thoroughly staked out here, NBC is going a different direction with “Revolution,” executive produced by J.J. Abrams. Counter-programming with a genre-flavored series that a network can pass off as a regular drama (with a twist!) so as not to scare off the average viewer seems like a smart move, on the face of it. And “Revolution” could also do a lot worse than having “The Voice” for a lead-in.
Then again, NBC has tried this tactic many times before with shows like “Journeyman” and “My Own Worst Enemy,” and both of those had more compatible Monday night companions than this new series.
10pm Tuesdays: A tough timeslot for several seasons now, 10 o’clock Tuesday is the home of the barely renewed “Parenthood” and that cancelled Poppy Montgomery show whose name we’ve already forgotten…what was it called…? (Just kidding, “Unforgettable“), and the place where ABC sent “Private Practice” off to hide.
“Parenthood” and “Private” will be back at 10, but are now going up against CBS’s new period piece “Vegas,” about a cowboy sheriff (played by Dennis Quaid) taking on the mob as the city began its rise in the 1960s. “Vegas” may end up being one of those series that only critics love, but count on it to make a noisy entrance.
10pm Wednesdays: Another soft night for any network who isn’t CBS (and even it needs to start thinking about a reasonable replacement for the aging “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation“), it will be interesting to see which series comes out on top in the battle between “Nashville,” which looks like ABC’s grittier answer to “Smash,” and Dick Wolf’s latest drama “Chicago Fire.”
10pm Thursdays: With “The Mentalist” leaping to Sunday at 10pm, the Thursday night pimp slot is anyone’s game again. Theoretically. ABC’s midseason keeper “Scandal” is remaining there, and its primary nemesis is the new Sherlock Holmes update “Elementary” on CBS. Tough to call a winner here, since both are fairly new and pretty much precisely the kind of shows that are evocative of their networks. Oh, and NBC? It has decided to
roll over and play dead take a different approach by keeping “Rock Center with Brian Williams” in that hour.
And last but not least…
The Friday Night Conundrum
Other than CBS which, between “CSI: NY,” new show “Made in Jersey” and “Blue Bloods,” has devoted its Friday nights to a version of New York that makes many a Midwesterner forgo a visit to Broadway for the safer streets of Branson, MO., nobody has figured out Fridays. Network executives may insist they have a strategy, but then, so do a lot of defeated and forgotten “Survivor” contestants.
Instead, Friday is the place where the networks decided to stick all of the shows with passionate audiences and low ratings, and “Whitney.” Will somebody please help them out? Help them, and you’ll be helping all of us.
But don’t kill yourself over that project. Tuesday night alone ensures that our DVRs will be full of stuff to watch at the end of a long work week instead.