Today, my fall preview looks at Thursday 10/9c. There have been quite a few changes in this hour in recent years, but at least two of the nets seem to be set here for now.
The first lead-out for Grey's Anatomy on Thursday was JJ Abrams offering Six Degrees but it really struggled and eventually saw Friday/ABC.com duty. It was replaced by a somewhat promising Friday show called Men in Trees which had at least marginal improvements in retention and got another season (but back to Friday). Late in '06-'07 the net debuted some other series, like six episodes of October Road and tryouts for Notes from the Underbelly and Traveler. For fall '07 it was the "male Desperate Housewives," Big Shots, and while it did pretty poorly it played out its entire 13-ep order in large part because the writer's strike hampered the available options. During the strike ABC moved Lost into a Thursday anchor spot and its lead-out was legal newbie Eli Stone. When Grey's came back post-strike Lost got bumped up into this 10:00 hour. For fall '08 it was another newbie in '70s cop drama Life on Mars, but it eventually got moved to Wednesday for a post-Lost tryout while fading Grey's spinoff Private Practice came over to the post-Grey's spot for a boost. No doubt it got one, and it's been in this hour ever since. It averaged a 3.27 in originals last season.
One of the most iconic three-hour blocks of TV in recent memory was CBS' Survivor/CSI/Without a Trace Thursdays. But in fall of 2006 CBS finally elected to break it up, sending Trace to prop up Sunday and bringing in legal newbie Shark. Shark had OK retention and got renewed, but it was Sunday-bound this time while WAT returned to solidify Thursday again. However, a year of disappointing retention saw it moved again for fall 2008, this time to Tuesdays at 10 to prop up a historically rough timeslot for the eye. Newbie Eleventh Hour took over for most of the season, then horror dud Harper's Island and crime repeats saw some late-season action. In 2009-10, CBS brought new Tuesday hit The Mentalist over to this night, apparently dubbing it the heir apparent to CSI's status as the night's signature drama. Its originals averaged a 3.39 last season.
This was, of course, the very long-term home of medical drama ER, which aired in the timeslot from its second episode all the way back in 1994 through the series finale in 2009. However, there were some fill-ins recently, first newbie Lipstick Jungle during the '08 writer's strike, then new cop drama Southland at the end of '08-'09 after ER finally aired its series finale. In 2009-10, The Jay Leno Show had the timeslot for the first half of the season, then NBC got rather mixed results out of new reality effort The Marriage Ref, which returns in 2010-11 but is once again a midseason entry. In the fall, it's the return of the original-recipe version of The Apprentice on the night where it's had its most success historically.
USA Network brings back Burn Notice in early November. FX has had a comedy foothold in this timeslot thanks to veteran It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and it's joined by sophomore The League this fall. And while I'm not mentioning several other shows that wrap early in the fall, the fact that MTV's absolute juggernaut Jersey Shore will air for a couple weeks against the broadcast competition could hurt.
The Mentalist - 3.14 average (-7% from last year), 3.6 premiere (even)
Private Practice - 2.96 average (-9%), 4.0 premiere (-13%)
The Apprentice - 2.50 average, 2.8 premiere
WHAT I'M WATCHING
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, then Burn Notice in November. You?
For more, see my 2009 post on the hour.