Thursday, September 2, 2010

22 Hours, Thursday 8/7c

Today, my fall preview looks at Thursday 8/7c. This timeslot was once a longtime home to shows like Ugly Betty, Smallville, My Name is Earl, and Survivor; each lasted at least three full seasons in the hour. Now, all those shows are off the night for one reason or another, and a new generation of mainstays is developing.

Ugly Betty was one of the biggest surprise hits in recent memory, launching very well as a lead-in to Grey's Anatomy in fall of '06. Three full seasons in the slot later, it was barely finding a 2.0 demo and limped into a fourth season on Friday nights. ABC has been shopping for replacements since spring '08 when they tried comedy Miss Guided and then in spring '09 comedies Samantha Who? and In The Motherhood but none of them did even Betty numbers. In 2009-10, it was buzzy Lost clone Flashforward, but it was yet another show that never seemed to figure out what made Lost work and lasted just one full season. Relationship drama My Generation takes over for fall 2010.

Survivor moved to this hour in the spring of 2001 and aired fall and spring cycles there every year through the 2009-10 season, but a major CBS shakeup has it on Wednesdays now. In its place are comedies The Big Bang Theory and $#*! My Dad Says, the former a massive hit on Monday last season and the latter a rather poorly-reviewed newbie. TBBT posted a 5.26 Monday average in 2009-10, the highest for any scripted show.

A historic night of comedy dominance on NBC saw just one hour of it when fall '06 kicked off, the My Name is Earl/The Office duo that had previously aired at 9 on Thursday as well as on Tuesdsay. Earl stayed in the 8 PM slot for three full seasons while The Office headed to 9 in fall '07. Earl was joined by a ragtag team of comedies across those final two years including 30 Rock (fall '07), Scrubs (spring '08), Kath & Kim (fall-winter '08), and Parks & Recreation (spring '09). Parks stayed at 8:30 in 2009-10 alongside a new anchor in Community, but for fall 2010 Parks is bumped to midseason and 30 Rock returns to 8:30. Community averaged a 2.20 in the anchor slot last year, while 30 Rock posted a 2.69 at 9:30.

Thursdays were once a disaster evening for Fox, but things turned around in spring 2007 when Fox gave a regular timeslot to game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, a slot it held down through the end of the '07-'08 season. By the end of 2007-08 they were apparently unsatisfied with 5th Grader so Fox went to game show dud Hole in the Wall for a brief run before replacing it with Kitchen Nightmares repeats. The slot then went to Bones in winter 2009. It's been there since, averaging a 2.88 demo in 2009-10, and returns in fall 2010.

WB import Smallville held this timeslot down for four years on The WB and The CW and was one of those nets' strongest shows, but in fall '09 it headed to Friday while rookie The Vampire Diaries took over. Dairies was widely hailed as the first legitimate new show success in The CW era, posting a 2.67 2009-10 average in women 18-34. It returns in 2010-11.

The Big Bang Theory - 4.42 average (-16% from last year), 5.0 premiere (+6%)
$#*! My Dad Says - 3.25 average, 4.2 premiere
Bones - 2.60 average (-10%), 2.8 premiere (-10%)
30 Rock - 1.98 average (-26%), 2.3 premiere (-23%) - I'm not sure the show would even build meaningfully on Community under normal circumstances, but I think the projected difference between Big Bang and $#*! will allow that.
Community - 1.80 average (-18%), 1.9 premiere (-51%) - Note on the big premiere drop: last year's series premiere was post-Office at 9:30.
My Generation - 1.73 average, 2.1 premiere - Average is largely contingent on the show getting pulled early, which I think will happen, but it could easily go lower. I don't see much chance. 

The Vampire Diaries - 2.57 W18-34 average (-4%), 3.0 premiere (-3%)

The Big Bang Theory and Community for sure. 30 Rock is my least favorite NBC comedy (or was last year when Parks & Rec was on the sked) and I keep threatening to give it up, but somehow I hang on. I like The Vampire Diaries but had too many shows in the hour last year, and that may happen again this year. I caught up online at first and then the last 5 eps or so over the summer, and I might like the show enough to do something like that again. I'll sample $#*! since I'll have the free DVR space at 8:30. My Generation, maybe not, because I don't think its ratings prospects are strong at all, and even if I liked it I probably wouldn't be able to free up a tuner for it. Perhaps if it does OK initially I'll see what it's like. Whew! You?

For more, see my 2009 post on the hour.

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