Baseline Intelligence Media analysts Steve Sternberg and Shari Anne Brill have teamed for their latest report, Primetime TV Insight: The 2011 Fall TV Preview Edition. This is their take on the new fall shows – which ones are the best; the best pilots; which have the best chance to survive; which will likely be busts; and a look at battleground time periods:
Last Man Standing Tuesday 8-8:30
Tim Allen is trying to duplicate the success he had in this time slot with Home Improvement. While nothing today is likely to get that big an audience, this is one of the funniest new comedy pilots we’ve seen. It would have a better chance of succeeding on Wednesday, however, instead of going up against NCIS and Glee.
Suburgatory Wednesday 8:30-9
Sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family, this one has some potential. The pilot was good, but we need to see how the ensemble cast develops. Its fate rests largely on whether it can build on its lead-in’s audience. If it can’t, it won’t last the full season.
Man Up Tuesday 8:30-9
This comedy is nothing special. It doesn’t seem strong enough to hold onto its lead-in audience in this tough time period.
Revenge Wednesday 10-11
It has an interesting twist with the revenge factor, as well as a good cast, but large-scale soap operas have not worked in recent years. Being up against CSI and Law & Order: SVU may not hurt as much as people think (since both are declining). But its weak lead-in (Happy Endings) won’t help. This might have been better to pair with Desperate Housewives on Sunday.
Charlie’s Angels Thursday 8-9
As much as we wanted to like the pilot, we just couldn’t. It’s not just that it may seem cheesy to today’s audience, but none of the Angels had any charisma. And we prefer the fatherly Bosley to the hot Latino version – simply because there shouldn’t be any sexual tension between Bosley and the Angels. And with this gorgeous cast, it seems strange that there isn’t any.
Once Upon a Time Sunday 8-9
The pilot was better than we expected. In a time period with no competing dramas, this could actually find an audience – and be watched by the whole family. It needs to be properly promoted though.
Pan Am Sunday 10-11
ABC should nourish this drama – the pilot was excellent. It has a real good ensemble cast, and it seems to have numerous potential storylines to tap. Could be good counter-programming to football and CSI: Miami. Should do better once the football season ends – we hope it lasts that long.
2 Broke Girls Monday 8:30-9
Despite some unfortunate language that’s not really appropriate for an 8:30pm show, the pilot was quite funny. This female odd couple seems to fit in with CBS’s Monday comedies, but we’re not sure it can be maintained on a weekly basis.
Unforgettable Tuesday 10-11
The pilot was interesting, and this is actually more compatible to the NCIS lead-ins than The Good Wife was. But it’s going after the same audience that watches Body Of Proof at the same time on ABC.
How to be a Gentleman Thursday 8:30-9
The pilot was pleasant enough. Should do about the same as $#*! My Dad Says did this past season (which was pretty good), or virtually any other comedy CBS chooses to follow The Big Bang Theory. Could be hurt by FOX’s The X Factor.
Person of Interest Thursday 9-10
CBS executives are so high on this procedural drama that they moved the long-running hit, CSI, to another night. It will be opposite a slipping Grey’s Anatomy, which should appeal to a different audience. The pilot was compelling, but it reminds us of a couple of previous CBS dramas that didn’t work.
A Gifted Man Friday 8-9
In this very weak time period, CBS is placing its weakest new show. Can it beat NBC’s Chuck? Maybe. Would that make it a success? No.
Up All Night Wednesday 8-8:30
The pilot was funny, and we always like Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph (Will Arnett too). But it seems like a sitcom from the early 1990’s. Someone thought it would be cool to have the wife work and the husband be a stay-at-home dad. But that’s no longer the novelty it once was, and a guy not being able to find cheese in a supermarket is more sad than funny. In subsequent episodes, they won’t be new parents, he’ll be used to being a stay-at-home dad, and she won’t be returning to work after her maternity leave. In other words, a lot of what made the pilot funny won’t be as relevant going forward.
But again, the cast is good, the pilot was funny, and they may be able to balance Christina Applegate’s home and work life so it doesn’t get stale. We’ll reserve judgment until we see a few more episodes.
The Playboy Club Monday 10-11
The pilot was nice to look at, but surprisingly not fun to watch. It’s not at all compatible with its lead-in (The Sing-Off ). Makes you realize how difficult it really is to do a stylized period piece like Mad Men. Let’s see how long it takes for NBC to fully utilize the nudity clause that the show’s cast signed.
Free Agents Wednesday 8:30-9
We’re surprised that NBC would put something like this on at 8:30, when kids might be in the room, but we’re equally surprised that NBC thought this was worth putting on at all. This may be the worst comedy pilot we’ve seen in the past 25 years. The cast has no chemistry, the writing was bad, and it seemed the whole pilot was just one crude joke. So bad it makes the canceled Outsourced seem like brilliant comedy.
Whitney Thursday 9:30-10
Executive producer and star (Whitney Cummings) is very appealing, but there is no chemistry between her and her boyfriend (Chris D’Elia). The writing for the pilot was just plain bad, which is not a promising sign going forward. Give Whitney Cummings a better series and she’ll shine. Interestingly, she is also an executive producer for CBS comedy, 2 Broke Girls.
Prime Suspect Thursday 10-11
Maria Bello has charisma, the supporting cast has potential, and the show looks like a winner. It’s up against Private Practice (which is weakening) and The Mentalist (which is still strong). It will have a weak and incompatible comedy lead-in, which may hurt. It could, however, draw viewers from a couple of 9-10pm dramas on other networks, namely CBS’s Person of Interest and FOX’s Bones. NBC needs to heavily promote this one.
Grimm Friday 9-10
The pilot was surprisingly good. It will be facing Fringe and Supernatural. Really? Of course. Why not place three supernatural-themed shows opposite one another? Because hurting the other guy is just as good to the broadcast networks as growing their own audience.
Terra Nova Monday 8-9
This Sci-Fi drama was originally supposed to launch during mid-season 2011, and then there was going to be a special “sneak peek” behind the finale of Glee. CGI issues have been cited as the reason for the delays.
FOX has been talking up the series for quite some time so it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be a huge amount of publicity and buzz surrounding the time travel drama in advance of its debut.
The pilot was excellent. It set up the premise and introduced us to the major characters pretty quickly. At the very least, this has the makings of a great mini-series. A good movie doesn’t necessarily make a good TV show, however. This type of show can develop a very loyal niche following, but it’s tougher for a sci-fi series to reach a broad audience. We think this has the potential to do so – as long as the special effects are only there to enhance the stories, not the other way around.
New Girl Tuesday 9-9:30
This is not only the best new comedy on the schedule, but it also gets the enviable post-Glee time slot. It is a far more suitable companion to the returning Raising Hope than last year’s failed sitcoms, Running Wilde and Traffic Light. The only caveat is that much of what made the pilot funny may not be sustainable on a weekly basis. The series will have to quickly move beyond the initial set up and focus on the developing friendship between Jess and her new roommates instead. The show has a very appealing cast.
The X Factor Wednesday 8-9:30
The success of this British singing competition import is a virtual lock. Depending on the strength of the format and the level of talent that will be performing, viewership to the X Factor could be near parity with American Idol.
The return of Paula Abdul to the judge’s table alongside Simon will have great appeal. If X Factor is the instant success we expect it to be, don’t be surprised if FOX expands it as often as possible to a two-hour show to avoid airing its 9:30 comedy entry, I Hate My Teenage Daughter.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter Wednesday 9:30-10
This sitcom is the polar opposite to FOX’s other new comedy, The New Girl; it’s one of the worst comedies on the schedule. After watching the pilot, we became “haters” of the actual show. We didn’t just hate the daughters, we found ourselves hating their parents even more.
We honestly can’t figure out who the intended target audience is for this show. While the comedy may benefit initially from having The X Factor as a lead-in, that won’t be enough of a reason for viewers to stick around in the coming weeks when there are plenty of other viewing options.
Allen Gregory Sunday 8:30-9
Allen Gregory’s premise has promise, and the lines are hysterically funny, We’re not quite sure whether the kids who normally watch The Simpsons or The Cleveland Show will grasp the sophisticated humor in this one. Much of the dialogue as well as many of the jokes and visuals could fly right over their heads. But their core young male viewers should eat it up.
Of course, it’s hard to tell, what the show will be like when one only has a trailer to go on. Nevertheless, because Gregory has the enviable hammock position between The Simpsons and Family Guy, animation domination fans will show up.
Alcatraz 1st Quarter 2012 Monday 8-9
We’re only including this mid-season series here because we liked it so much. The pilot combined history, mystery, and lots of suspense. It’s one of the best new crime dramas on the schedule. J.J. Abrams has a penchant for developing shows featuring conspiracies, cover-ups, time travel and mysterious islands.
In fact, fan favorite, Jorge Garcia, (“Hurley” on Lost), has been cast in the role of Dr. Diego Soto. Viewers who are waxing nostalgic for 24, Prison Break, and Lost could flock to this new series – particularly if Terra Nova gets an audience to the time period in the fall.
It’s also the only series currently scheduled in the hour that will appeal to men.
Hart of Dixie Monday 9-10
At first it was hard to buy into Rachel Bilson in the role of a cardio-thoracic surgeon. The pilot picks up energy, however, once she learns that she’s inherited a medical practice in the small southern town of Bluebell, Alabama and goes there to check it out. The shift in focus to big city girl as “fish out of water” is when it becomes engaging. Hart of Dixie, while a good family drama, is vastly different from its Gossip Girls lead-in. We believe it would play better in the 8pm hour.
Secret Circle Thursday 9-10
Kevin Williamson’s ability to connect with young adults on TV with Dawson’s Creek as well as with his Scream movie franchise, has created a pilot episode that is filled with the perfect amount of witches, bitches and scary elements throughout. It will pair up better with Vampire Diaries versus last year’s action drama, Nikita. We expect some mild time period growth for CW in the hour.
H8R Wednesday 8-9
This is a light hour of guilty pleasure for viewers who have a love/hate relationship with celebrity-reality shows, have become a bit too invested in their over-the-top personalities, and have formed negative judgments. While this new series is a better companion to America’s Top Model than its canceled predecessor, Shedding for the Wedding, it will have a rough time opposite direct competitor The X Factor in the hour.
Ringer Tuesday 9-10
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will undoubtedly tune in for Sarah Michelle Geller in her return to TV after a seven-year absence. They may not stay, however, when they see how different her role is here.
Ringer was initially developed for CBS, but deemed too young in sensibility – more appropriate for CW. But it’s still a departure from the type of series CW normally airs. We’d be surprised if it works here. We think this drama would have actually been better for CBS.
Each night contains what we call battleground time periods, where two or three series are facing off in contests that could go either way. The idea that similar-type programs in the same time slot are competing with one another is one of the biggest programming myths. Often it is shows of different genres that appeal to similar audiences.
Monday 8-10pm is a case in point. On Monday, it seems like the major battle will be between the singing and dancing reality competitions. But ABC’s hit Dancing With the Stars (median age 57) appeals to a largely different audience than NBC’s mid-season success, The Sing-Off (median age 48). Actually, NBC will be competing more with the similar skewing CBS comedies (median ages 47-52) and FOX’s Sci-Fi thriller, Terra Nova and medical drama, House (both with estimated median ages of 48).
With CBS, NBC, and FOX competing for the same mid-age audience, ABC will get the older folks, which will enable the network to also lead among total viewers. CBS will maintain its edge among adults 25-54, while adults 18-49 will be a tight three-way race among CBS, NBC, and FOX. The under-35 audience should be in FOX’s pocket, with NBC not far behind.
Monday 10-11pm will have three competing dramas. CBS’s Hawaii Five-0 has been beating ABC’s Castle among adults – ABC has generally edged out CBS among women, but CBS won by a large margin among men. That should continue. The wildcard is NBC’s new The Playboy Club. It should impact Castle, which has shown weakness when faced with decent competition, more than CBS, but we still think it will finish third among viewers under 55 and first among viewers 55+. Among total viewers, it will be a virtual three-way tie. All three will have median ages between 54 and 56.
Tuesday 8-9pm is like a capsule look at the entire week. CBS’s NCIS (median age 58) will lock up the older audience, and will continue to lead among adults 25-54. FOX’s Glee (median age 39) will remain the under-35 leader. CBS and FOX will be neck-and-neck among adults 18-49. ABC’s new Last Man Standing (median age 50) will have a razor-thin edge for second among adults 25-54 over Glee and NBC’s Biggest Loser (median age 46).
Tuesday 10-11pm will see ABC’s mid-season success, Body of Proof, facing off with CBS’s new Unforgettable, and NBC’s returning Parenthood. This will be an interesting contest. With both having median ages of around 58, we expect ABC and CBS to be relatively close here. Body of Proof will have a narrow advantage among adults 18-49 and 25-54, but it’s really a toss-up. NBC’s Parenthood is actually significantly younger-skewing than the other two dramas (median age 46), but it’s just not strong enough to finish anywhere but third-place in this hour.
While every hour on Wednesday has interesting match-ups, it’s hard to call anything before 10pm a true battleground time period. From 8-9pm, FOX’s The X-Factor will dominate, while CBS’s Survivor will have a comfortable second place lead over ABC and NBC comedies. At 9pm, ABC’s Modern Family (median age 45) and CBS’s Criminal Minds (median age 55) will remain very strong. There will be a big fall-off at 9:30pm for both ABC and FOX comedies. NBC’s Harry’s Law (median age 59), which had been competitive on Monday, is being thrown to the wolves here (with totally incompatible lead-ins).
Wednesday 10-11pm will have two former powerhouses CBS’s CSI and NBC’s Law & Order: SVU (both declining) up against ABC’s new drama, Revenge. CBS, partly because it is inherently stronger, and partly because it is the only one of the three with a compatible lead-in, will get the win among adults. ABC could edge out CBS for the lead among women, however. We expect the new ABC drama, with a projected median age of 51, to hurt NBC (median age 53) more than CBS (median age 57). Chris Meloni leaving SVU will hurt more.
Thursday starts out with FOX’s The X Factor and CBS’s The Big Bang Theory attracting most of the viewers. Thursday 9-10pm, however, contains some interesting contests. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy will continue to dominate among women, which will enable it to lead among adults 18-49 and 25-54 as well. FOX’s Bones, now with a strong lead-in, could finish second among adults and women 25-54. Even without Steve Carrell, The Office will take the under-35 crowd, and may have a shot at winning adults 18-49 (but the new sitcom, Whitney, will fall off considerably at 9:30pm). CBS’s new drama, Persons of Interest, will be competitive among adults 25-54, and could win among older viewers. We expect a wide range of median ages, with The Office at 36, Grey’s Anatomy at 48, Bones at 52, and Persons of Interest at 56.
Thursday 10-11pm will see CBS’s The Mentalist continue to win among adults 18-49 and 25-54. ABC’s Private Practice will win among women under 50. NBC’s new Prime Suspect will be virtually tied with ABC for second among adults 18-49 and 25-54.
On Friday 8-9pm, CBS’s weakest new show, A Gifted Man, should still be able to out-rate NBC’s Chuck. But the two reality shows, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and FOX’s Kitchen Nightmares will fight for the adult 18-49 lead. ABC and CBS will battle for the adult 25-54 lead. Friday 9-10pm will bring back CBS’s CSI: NY, which should still be able to easily win among adults 25-54 and total viewers. But among adults 18-49 and those under 35, FOX’s Fringe could lead. NBC’s new Grimm will probably do as well (or poorly) as its lead-in.
Saturday doesn’t really have any battleground time periods. ABC’s college football gets the highest ratings, and it’s mostly repeats, reality, or news magazines on the other networks throughout the season.
Sunday 9-10pm will be an interesting hour this fall, as CBS’s The Good Wife moves here from Tuesday to take on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. The two could actually be tied among total viewers, but that’s because of The Good Wife’s strength among the 55+ set. Desperate Housewives, while not as strong as in its heyday, will easily win among all demos under 50. CBS’s median age here will be about 59, compared to ABC’s 51.
We should point out that NBC’s football, of course, will lead the hour, while FOX’s Family Guy will easily beat ABC and CBS among men (and should edge out Desperate Housewives among adults 18-49). Sunday 10-11pm will see the new ABC drama, Pan Am challenge CBS’s CSI: Miami. It will lead among women, but be behind among men and adults. After the football season, NBC’s new legal thriller, The Firm, will hurt CBS more than ABC, but will probably still be in third place.
Fall primetime insights dished by network: Cable