Friday, February 4, 2011

A Lost Year? Revisiting 2010-11 New Shows So Far

I've read a lot of TV media stuff in recent years about how broadcast network audiences are on the decline and that broadcast needs a good development year to stop it from spiraling out of control. Last year (2009-10) was clearly a good development year, with each network having at least one decent success story. Despite continued overall broadcast declines, the media was more than happy to make the good year for new shows into the narrative, and that was somewhat deserved.

This year, they won't even have that. I looked at this dreadful season of newbies as a whole very early in the season, but as we begin February sweeps 2011 with still no truly legit scripted successes from anyone, it seems like I should revisit it, as it's definitely (and unfortunately) one of the season's biggest stories.

How many will get renewed?

One of the key tenets of my ongoing "system" experiment for new shows is the idea that about a third of new shows on average make it to a season 2. Last season, 13 of 30 new shows were renewed (43%). This year, it could very well be the opposite case, with less than a third of shows renewed and multiple "excellent" shows failing.

We've got 26 new shows so far, and here's what the "system" thinks about them. The last post (Perfect Couples) has the full "system" update and links to all the individual First Two Weeks posts. (I'm too lazy to transfer 25 other links over, sorry.)

EXCELLENT (5-6 points): Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly (6 points), The Event, $#*! My Dad Says, No Ordinary Family (5 points)
BORDERLINE (3-4 points): Law & Order: Los Angeles, Outsourced, Raising Hope, Blue Bloods, Bob's Burgers, Off the Map (4 points), The Defenders, Nikita, Hellcats, Better with You (3 points)
IN TROUBLE (0-2 points): Detroit 1-8-7, Chase, The Cape, Running Wilde, Harry's Law (2 points), The Whole Truth, Perfect Couples (1 point), Outlaw, Undercovers, My Generation, Lone Star (0 points)

Let me break this down more subjectively using much more than two weeks:

Renewed/very good shot at renewal (90-100%): Raising Hope, Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly (3/26)
Good shot at renewal (50-90%): Blue Bloods, Nikita, Hellcats, Harry's Law (4/26)
Some shot at renewal (10-50%): The Event, $#*! My Dad Says, No Ordinary Family, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Outsourced, Better with You, Off the Map, Bob's Burgers (8/26)
Cancelled/virtually no shot at renewal (0-10%): The Defenders, Detroit 1-8-7, Chase, The Cape, Running Wilde, The Whole Truth, Perfect Couples, Outlaw, Undercovers, My Generation, Lone Star (11/26)

So these are the "tiers" as I see them right now. Feel free to quibble, but I think it's pretty close. If you green the entirety of the top two tiers (and frankly, I don't think any of the "good shot" shows are totally safe right now), you still need to find two in the "some shot" category to get past the typical one-third mark. That's not so ridiculous, but this year won't make it into 2009-10 territory percentage-wise. You'd need four of those eight renewed, which I don't see, or maybe a bunch of successes that haven't debuted yet.

However, looking at it in renew/cancel terms sorta misses the real story. It doesn't look quite so dire from that angle. With lots of shows still barely hanging on and several more still to premiere, we could very well wind up with a third or more of the shows getting renewed. It'd still likely be a bad year for new shows. Why?

No hits.

Let's look at just those top seven shows, the ones I think are pretty likely to come back. 

The renewed Raising Hope: It's certainly the strongest live-action Fox comedy in awhile (2.65 average to date), and its most recent originals (in late November and early December) were on the upswing relative to the big Glee lead-in. Deserves its renewal, but it's still been losing a pretty healthy chunk from Glee.  

Mike & Molly: Easily the highest-rated new show in 18-49 (3.67) and there's no real doubt it should continue, but it's still holding only 81% of its 2.5 Men lead-in on average, very slightly down from the historic percentages of Old Christine (83%) and Rules of Engagement (84%) and we've seen how those shows ultimately did apart from Men. It's certainly not in the realm of what The Big Bang Theory did last year (it built by 7% on Men on average). With Men's production hiatus, we are probably going to learn a lot more about this show in the coming months.

Hawaii Five-0: The biggest new broadcast drama, and nothing even comes close. It's also one of the strongest 10:00 dramas on TV. But many consider its 3.09 Monday average to date underwhelming relative to the lofty expectations.

Blue Bloods: A reasonable success in 18-49 on Friday (1.80 average on that night) but has not proven a good player elsewhere. It's had trouble even getting past a 2.0 in its Wednesday tryouts despite a good Criminal Minds lead-in, then tanked to a 1.6 once Minds hit repeats.

Nikita: Not much of a draw in the CW's target W18-34 (just a 1.23 average there). It is one of the stronger CW shows in 18-49 (1.03 average) but it probably owes a lot of that to The Vampire Diaries. It loses over a third of that 18-49 audience (1.56) on average. Frequently pegged as a companion to Supernatural on Fridays next season.

Hellcats: Still stronger than Nikita in W18-34 (1.59 average) and probably renewal-worthy in A18-49 (0.93) but has also mostly just held decently to big lead-ins, first Top Model and now One Tree Hill (where it lost a third of the 18-49 and over 40% of the young women this week).

Harry's Law: It still hasn't faced an original Five-0 since premiere week, so I'm only cautiously optimistic. And the biggest positive here is not so much the great ratings, but simply how much better it's doing than The Cape. It's still only getting a 2.1 demo. Nothing to write home about.

A pretty underwhelming crop of "strongest new shows," to be sure. They're all either modest self-starters or... well, in most cases, not self-starters. Compare this to last season. I think you'd have to go through a lot of new shows before you get to about where the above group is. Stuff like Glee, Modern Family, and The Vampire Diaries were all game-changers (by their networks' standards) and there's been nothing at all like that this year. You may even have to go through some second-tier 2009-10 stuff like NCIS: LA, The Cleveland Show, Cougar Town, and The Middle before you get to about the level of this year's best. Yikes.


The best hope for a good year for new shows is a breakout in the next three and a half months or so. There will be plenty more chances that will get good lead-in support: Mr. Sunshine and Happy Endings in the ABC comedy block, Body of Proof after Dancing with the Stars, the Criminal Minds spinoff Suspect Behavior will air after the mothership, Mad Love will air after How I Met Your Mother, and Fox has The Chicago Code airing post-House and Traffic Light after Raising Hope starting next week.

Until then, it's looking like exactly the kind of development year broadcast TV didn't need.

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