Wednesday, September 15, 2010

22 Hours of Primetime, Wednesday 10/9c

Today, my fall preview looks at Wednesday 10/9c, one of the true scheduling oddities of fall 2010. Once a longtime home to veteran procedurals Law & Order and CSI: NY, a new generation of episodic dramas takes over on all three nets. Not only that, but they're all legal-themed!

For fall of 2007 and 2008, the timeslot housed Dirty Sexy Money, but the seasons were cut off first by the writer's strike and then by cancellation. In early '08 the replacements included drama failures Cashmere Mafia and Men in Trees, then a post-strike run for Boston Legal. In early '09 Lost made its return to Wednesdays at 9 and it had a couple lead-outs, first '70s cop show Life on Mars and then cop dramedy The Unusuals. Neither of them lasted either, and then another couple failures took the slot in 2009-10 in new drama Eastwick and fast-fading serial Ugly Betty. In the end, the best performer in the hour may have been late-season fill-in Primetime: What Would You Do? With both of the dramas axed, the net moves on to Jerry Bruckheimer legal procedural The Whole Truth.

The eye debuted CSI: NY in this timeslot in fall of 2004 and has not aired anything else here since. But it took substantial drops in the 2009-10 season and will finally be leaving the hour. Its replacement is newbie The Defenders.

If one event can signal the beginning of NBC's problems on Wednesday night, it was probably newbie Kidnapped showing up completely DOA in the fall of 2006. Rather than bring back longtime tentpole Law & Order, they briefly aired Dateline in the slot and had a midseason run for Medium ready to go by November. For fall '07 they had cop drama Life in the timeslot which started in medicore fashion but held up well enough during lead-in Bionic Woman's complete meltdown that it got another season. In winter '08 the net returned Law & Order to its longtime home, where it saw its only season of growth in its last several years. For fall '08 it was failed sophomore drama Lipstick Jungle, but it was quickly shifted to Friday and Law & Order was back in the saddle by November. The Jay Leno Show kicked off 2009-10 in the hour, as with every other night on the sked, but it departed in February 2010 and Law & Order: SVU moved up to this hour from its previous 9:00 home. But SVU returns to 9:00 for fall 2010, where it will lead into another Law & Order spinoff in Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Comedy Central's hour of South Park and Ugly Americans will be a male demo draw. USA's Psych returns in early November, while FX will have Terriers, which hopes to grow from its pretty low-rated start last Wednesday.

The Defenders - 2.55 average, 3.1 premiere - I see this one winning the hour, but fairly troubling retention from Criminal Minds may still leave it as less than a cinch to stick around.
Law & Order: Los Angeles - 2.15 average, 2.9 premiere - Maybe it's stupid, but I think this will be a very marginal show. Yes, name recognition, but what is name recognition really doing for the other shows in the franchise?
The Whole Truth - 1.76 average, 2.3 premiere - This has been a really rough hour for ABC, and programming a legal drama against two legal dramas that I'd argue are better-positioned (more compatible lead-ins, and in LOLA's case the name recognition) is not the way to change that.

I'll give all three newbies a shot at some point. No real idea what to expect. I'm a longtime Law & Order fan but not a big fan of the LOLA cast, so this one is up for grabs. You?

For more, see my 2009 post on the hour.

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