Today, my fall preview looks at Monday 9/8c, in which two new and heavily hyped serialized dramas take on a couple highly established powerhouses.
Since spring of '07, Dancing with the Stars has aired in at least part of this hour on a fall/spring basis. In fall of 2007 the net launched singlecam comedy Samantha Who? after the end of the 90-minute Dancing to exceptional results, but winter airings alongside Notes from the Underbelly were much weaker. Notes continued to air along with extended editions of DWTS-spinoff Dance War in early '08 until the return of Dancing. Samantha returned post-Dancing for spring and fall of '08, and the second half of The Bachelor filled the slot during winter '09 and '10. In the last two springs, the net has tried a multicam comedy at 9:30 but both Surviving Suburbia (2009) and Romantically Challenged (2010) have done worse retention than Samantha ever did and failed to get a renewal. This fall Dancing will again be two hours all the time, with The Bachelor returning to the hour between cycles. Dancing had 3.67 and 4.84 Monday averages last season, while The Bachelor's large 4.08 average meant there is not much of a dropoff between Dancing cycles.
The anchor for this hour for the last five years has been Two and a Half Men which averaged a 4.94 in 2009-10 originals and is one of the best-repeating shows on television. It will continue to occupy 9:00 in fall '10. 9:30 has been a bit more of an adventure. After a very successful spring '07 tryout of newbie Rules of Engagement, Rules won the slot for fall '07 and held it for most of that season, though previous occupant Old Christine returned for a few months during the writer's strike to run originals after Men repeats. A third show entered the mix in fall '08, singlecam effort Worst Week, but it did poorly and was eventually replaced by Rules again. In 2009-10 it was third-year show The Big Bang Theory, which grew into a major hit in the 9:30 half hour and had the highest original average of any scripted show that year. For fall 2010 CBS boldly tries to establish Big Bang on another night and will move newbie (and another show from Men/BBT producer Chuck Lorre) Mike & Molly to 9:30.
The peacock launched Heroes to great success in fall '06 and it was the signature show of this timeslot for the next three years. But the second half of '07-'08 required other programming as Heroes was cut off by the writer's strike and repeats awfully. The answer was generally some combination of American Gladiators and Deal Or No Deal. Heroes returned for most of '08-'09 though reality failure Superstars of Dance took up some time between volumes. In 2009-10, since the net had to take on more of a Fox/CW approach due to stripped The Jay Leno Show, Heroes slid to the lead-in slot at 8 while failed newbie Trauma led out of it, then Heroes briefly returned to this hour to run out its last episodes. A few Law & Order repeats closed out the year. This year it becomes home to another sprawling serialized drama in The Event.
This timeslot is best known on Fox for action drama 24 but it got the axe last season, meaning the entire season (as opposed to just the fall) is a question mark now. In fall '07 they went with New Orleans cop show K-Ville which failed. Winter '08 saw 24 out of commission due to the strike but the net got pretty decent mileage out of the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. After it wrapped yet another newbie, New Amsterdam, ran in the timeslot for the rest of the season. 24 came back for the first half of '09 and the net used Prison Break there in the fall of that season. In fall '09 the slot went to sophomore Lie to Me, then back to 24 for its last season in early 2010. This fall, the net tries something totally different in earnest soap Lone Star. They have Shawn Ryan drama Ride Along slated for midseason, but if Lone Star does anything at all, don't count on it leaving the hour. (Maybe for a brief spell to avoid repeats.)
The original CW home to newbie Runaway, this timeslot instantly saw change as the net brought its UPN comedy block to the night, with Girlfriends and The Game occupying this hour. Spring '08 saw the move of One Tree Hill to this slot alongside lead-in Gossip Girl. With the shows fizzling by 2009 the net decided to move OTH to 8 to lead into Gossip Girl, which still declined heftily last season but returns for fall 2010 without the OTH lead-in. It averaged a 2.45 in W18-34.
As at 8, ESPN's Monday Night Football is a part of the mix to say the least; it is likely to beat everything in this hour. The History Channel will probably continue to get decent numbers out of American Pickers.
Two and a Half Men - 4.60 average (-7% from last year), 4.5 premiere (even)
DWTS (spring) - 4.30 average (-11%), 5.2 premiere (-19%)
DWTS (fall) - 3.87 average (+5%), 4.3 premiere (+5%)
Mike and Molly - 3.68 average, 4.0 premiere
The Event - 3.60 average, 3.8 premiere - If predicting TV ratings is dumb, then predicting ratings for a serialized drama like this when you haven't seen any of it is even dumber. This has gotta be a "go big or go home" prediction; it seems very unlikely this show is going to skate by in the low-2's and eke out a season 2, but who knows? Just to shake things up I'm going big. I don't think the competish is prohibitive, and I don't think serialized dramas are dead on broadcast just because a couple have failed recently. Could very easily be another Flashforward, but what stands out to me about this show (and, in fact, nearly the only thing I know about it) is the excellent cast, and that's what I'm going on.
Lone Star - 2.42 average, 3.3 premiere - I have a feeling this is going to struggle to do much, but the House lead-in will help. At this number it'd probably be a true bubble show down the stretch.
Gossip Girl - 2.08 W18-34 average (-15%), 3.0 premiere (-12%)
WHAT I'M WATCHING
Without anything but reviews to go on, my two most anticipated new shows are both in this hour in Lone Star and The Event. I may give Mike & Molly a shot if it shows up online or if I give up one of the other two. I think I'm out on Gossip Girl, which I watched for awhile but gave up on late last season.
For more, see my 2009 post on the hour.