Friday, May 20, 2011

First Two Weeks, How'd We Do in 2010-11?

This is a look at how I did at predicting new shows' fates based on just the first two weeks. I might have one last "What a Shitty Year For New Shows" post up in the fairly near future, but the in-depth analysis of the merits of the system itself is probably not gonna come till toward the end of the summer.

For now, I'll just look at my "eye test" evaluations from each of the articles linked in the "system" recap below (in other words, what I subjectively predict at the end of the "Prognosis" section). These are more interesting because I actually made myself pick one way or the other, so there's not a big morass of "borderline" shows that I could not possibly be completely wrong about.

Raising Hope - Renew - RIGHT
Harry's Law - Renew - RIGHT
Mike & Molly - Renew - RIGHT

Hawaii Five-0 - Renew - RIGHT
Blue Bloods - Renew - RIGHT
Body of Proof - Renew - RIGHT

Nikita - Cancel - WRONG
Happy Endings - Cancel - WRONG
Bob's Burgers - Cancel - WRONG

No Ordinary Family - Renew - WRONG
The Event - Renew - WRONG
Hellcats - Renew - WRONG
Outsourced - Renew - WRONG
Mr. Sunshine - Renew - WRONG
Mad Love - Cancel - RIGHT
Chase - Cancel - RIGHT
Detroit 1-8-7 - Cancel - RIGHT
Off the Map - Cancel - RIGHT
Better with You - Cancel - RIGHT
The Defenders - Cancel - RIGHT
The Chicago Code - Cancel - RIGHT
$#*! My Dad Says  - Cancel - RIGHT
Chaos - Cancel - RIGHT
The Paul Reiser Show - Cancel - RIGHT
Perfect Couples - Cancel - RIGHT
The Whole Truth - Cancel - RIGHT
Running Wilde - Cancel - RIGHT
Lone Star - Cancel - RIGHT
Undercovers - Cancel - RIGHT
Law & Order: Los Angeles - Cancel - RIGHT
Breaking In - Cancel - RIGHT
Traffic Light - Cancel - RIGHT
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior - Cancel - RIGHT
The Cape - Cancel - RIGHT
My Generation - Cancel - RIGHT
Outlaw - Cancel - RIGHT

So, subjectively speaking, I got 28/36 (78%) correct based on the first two weeks. I don't really know what a good percentage would be, but my instinct is that is not a very good percentage. After all, if I just picked everything to get axed, I'd have gone 27/36, so... let's look at why I missed what I missed:

No Ordinary Family - This is sort of this year's Flashforward ratings-wise. I don't think there's any way I could've guessed based on the very good start (3.2 demo leading off the night) and the reasonable drop (16%) that it'd be axed. 16% is kind of a lot, but it's nothing to be too alarmed about. Perhaps I was also influenced by the already-clear failures of many other ABC newbies, but I don't think I was influenced that much. This one just didn't quite get going enough creatively to hold that early audience.

Nikita/Hellcats - Not that I'm trying to get credit for only being wrong once (OK, I kinda am), but I sort of made these predictions in tandem. I found both of them to have very borderline beginnings and figured one of two would get renewed, and I don't regret giving Hellcats the edge initially. In fact, I think Hellcats' edge actually grew beyond the first two weeks, and I'd say at the beginning of 2011 I felt even better about Hellcats. Then came Hellcats' move to Tuesday. I'm not totally sure why it happened, but the post-One Tree Hill slot absolutely destroyed this show. It went from pulling pretty reliable 0.9's in A18-49 and 1.5's in W18-34 to as low as less than half of that within the space of about three months. It's quite rare for a show, even a new show, to be as steady as this one was for the whole fall and then just suddenly drop off the face of the earth. Nikita was far from an impressive player itself, and it'll be on Fridays next fall, but as Hellcats descended into oblivion it became clear the CDub would need some other show for the schedule, and Nikita's it.

The Event - Sort of like NoOrdFam, neither of the first two weeks looked particularly prohibitive, but it just never stopped dropping. This was a show where I probably should've paid more attention to the buzz, because while I never hated it as much as some, it was clear there was a lot of negative sentiment toward the show. Genre shows with bad buzz do not usually hold up. I maintain it had some shot by the end of the fall run, but it took a big dip over the hiatus, so much so that (despite my prophecy it wouldn't happen) I think the long hiatus did hurt The Event.

Outsourced - Unlike No Ordinary Family and The Event, this show did not clearly drop out of conceivable renewal territory. I think a lot of the early negative sentiment from the Internet (including the "racism" accusations) stemmed from the idea that the show had stolen a schedule spot from Parks & Recreation. Its retention from The Office was nothing awful but nothing special (a bit worse than 30 Rock's historically). What the numbers probably warranted was some more time after The Office. What happened, I think in part because of all that bad buzz, was a move into uncharted sitcom territory: a 10:30/9:30c timeslot. I remarked even before it aired there that I thought this was gonna be a tough situation. It's really the only primetime half-hour where a lot more people are turning off the TV than turning it on, so you really have to be something compelling to get people to start a show at 10:30. Outsourced wasn't something compelling. Again, it didn't do awful (sometimes better than NBC's 8:00 hour offerings) but it didn't do anything special either, and so the demise that was set in motion by the midseason scheduling played out. I was wrong based on the first two weeks, but I think (as with Hellcats) its chances would've been better if not for the midseason move.

Bob's Burgers - This is certainly one of the shows that makes me think that looking perhaps at week 1 and then week three (rather than week two) would be a better system. It was the classic "huge premiere, huge drop" scenario that I call the toughest to predict, and in Bob's case the huge premiere also came with a huge lead-in. Give it credit for stabilizing pretty soon after its second week and winding up a pretty comparable performer to the other middling animated shows on Fox.

Mr. Sunshine/Happy Endings - Ultimately Happy Endings and Mr. Sunshine and Better with You had reasonably similarly "meh" ratings. But the powers that be have a way of manipulating the numbers to do what they want them to do. When there's no real ratings separation, follow the buzz, and Happy Endings had the buzz. I don't really regret giving Sunshine the nod or Happy Endings (or the correct Better with You) the thumbs down after two weeks, because they ultimately ended up in similar places ratings-wise and it came down to what ABC wanted to do. I didn't feel too confident about any of them after two weeks, and they all ended up on the bubble.

So, of the eight I got wrong: two (Outsourced/Hellcats) I'm convinced were killed by scheduling, but I guess they might have failed anyway. Another (Nikita) would've been closer if it didn't have to take up a slot for one of those killed by scheduling. Two (The Event/No Ordinary Family) were genre shows that ultimately didn't have the goods creatively to stabilize (perhaps in Event's case I should've seen it) and the other three (Bob's Burgers/Mr. Sunshine/Happy Endings) ended up about as close as they appeared after two weeks, and I don't think future ratings helped that much with the prognosis. I think only about four of the eight I missed were truly cleared up by the end.

Also, just to soothe my damaged ego, let me visit a few close calls that I got right:

$#*! My Dad Says/Mad Love/The Defenders - Until Bob's Burgers came along at midseason, $#*! was the biggest premiere of the season. Its 18% drop was not great but not catastrophic. But I still had it done after week two. They key here, really, was lead-in retention. By week two it was already losing 25% of its Big Bang lead-in despite the HUT increase at 8:30, and that was the most compelling numbers reason. Eight of its last nine episodes to air after original Big Bang went on to lose 30%+. Its raw numbers were good enough to get renewed, even on CBS, but it just lost too much. Mad Love and The Defenders were a couple more OK premieres followed by small drops, but once again, you could see because of their lead-ins and the strong network they were on that they weren't as good-looking as they might have seemed when compared to everyone. Neither of these really had much of a shot by the end, but it might not be totally obvious why I picked against them so early.

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior/Law & Order: Los Angeles - Two very similar premiere and week two performances for two ultimately axed spinoffs, but I have to admit neither of these became complete slam-dunk cancellations. Suspect Behavior jumped around a lot but ultimately stayed fairly close to where it was in week two; I just felt its week two performance was already not good enough for CBS. LOLA I called as a failure from the day it was greenlit (because I thought Law & Order was just not a potent enough brand anymore to produce a new long-running spinoff) and its 25% drop in week two didn't change my mind. While it did drop below 2.0 on several occasions in the fall, it didn't become totally clear what its fate was till it returned from its huge hiatus.

The Chicago Code - I might have gotten a little lucky on this one. Its week two performance was already in bubble territory but then it did a reasonably decent job of staying there. If you'd told me the show would ultimately average a 1.9+ (slightly higher than fellow axed bubbler Lie to Me) I'd have probably leaned toward renewal because of the acclaim and everything. Instead, it's gone, and the reason I say I got a little lucky is because I think 20th parting ways with Shawn Ryan helped bump up the ratings expectations a bit. Not to say that killed the show, just that it made the renewal a little less easy.

First Three Weeks?

As I said, I'm gonna look more at "the system" toward the end of the summer as we start gearing up for fall 2011 and re-evaluate once more whether it's really possible to predict this stuff this early on. I started looking at the "first two weeks" a couple years back because it just seemed so elegant, but there's always been this little bit of industry "conventional wisdom": this notion that week three is when you really figure out what you've got. Week one is just sampling, week two weeds out some of the initial sampling, and then if all those people who are left come back in week three, you're off to the races. Or so the wisdom says.

There are shows where it seems to really help, like Body of Proof and Happy Endings, both of which took big drops in week two but had very good week threes. And shows like The Event and No Ordinary Family which seemed to have OK week twos went on to take double-digit drops in week three as well. But is that a coincidence or something meaningful? There are also shows where week three really hurts the picture. Raising Hope was steady in week two, a great sign, then plummets 19% in week three but is renewed. The Chicago Code also seemed to get back in the mix with an encouraging week three but ultimately didn't make it. So I think there will be some oddities in either week two or week three. Lining them all up, ultimately week three does seem a little better, but I'll do the tests later this summer to see how it holds up across several years.

Here's the final "system" with all the post links and scores and colors:

SYSTEM (explanation)

WEEK ONE (tiers worth 4, 2, 0 points)
Bob's Burgers 4.5
$#*! My Dad Says 4.0
Hawaii Five-0 3.9
Mike & Molly 3.9
Mr. Sunshine 3.7
The Event 3.6
Outsourced 3.6
Breaking In 3.5
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior 3.3
No Ordinary Family 3.2
Law & Order: Los Angeles 3.2
Hellcats (3.2)

Body of Proof 3.1
Raising Hope 3.1
Mad Love 3.0 
The Defenders 2.9
Blue Bloods (2.8)
Nikita (2.7)
The Cape 2.6 
Better with You 2.5 
Happy Endings 2.5
Running Wilde 2.4
The Chicago Code 2.4 
Chase 2.3

Off the Map 2.3
Detroit 1-8-7 2.3
Outlaw 2.3
Harry's Law 2.2 
Undercovers 2.1
Perfect Couples 2.1 
Traffic Light 1.9
My Generation 1.6
The Whole Truth 1.5
Chaos (1.4)
Lone Star 1.3
The Paul Reiser Show 1.1

Friday premieres = 1.25 * A18-49
CW premieres = 1.5 * W18-34

WEEK TWO (tiers worth 2, 1, 0 points)
Raising Hope even
Harry's Law -5% 
Mike & Molly -5%
Mad Love -7%
Hawaii Five-0 -8%
Chase -9%
Detroit 1-8-7 -9%
Off the Map -9%
Blue Bloods -9%
Better with You -12%
The Defenders -14%
No Ordinary Family -16%

The Chicago Code -17%
Nikita -17%
$#*! My Dad Says -18%
Chaos -18%
The Paul Reiser Show -18%
Hellcats -19%
Perfect Couples -19%
The Event -19%
The Whole Truth -20%
Running Wilde -21%
Outsourced -22% 
Body of Proof -23%

Lone Star -23%
Undercovers -24%
Law & Order: Los Angeles -25%
Breaking In -26%
Traffic Light -26%
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior -27%
Mr. Sunshine -30%
The Cape -31% 
My Generation -31%
Happy Endings -32%
Bob's Burgers -44%
Outlaw -52%

EXCELLENT (5-6 points): 
Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly, No Ordinary Family (6 points), The Event, $#*! My Dad Says, Outsourced, Hellcats (5 points)
BORDERLINE (3-4 points): Law & Order: Los Angeles, Raising Hope,
Blue Bloods, Bob's Burgers, Better with You, Mr. Sunshine, Mad Love, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, The Defenders, Breaking In (4 points), Running Wilde, Nikita, The Chicago Code, Body of Proof (3 points)
IN TROUBLE (0-2 points):
Off the MapDetroit 1-8-7, Chase, The Cape, Harry's Law, Happy Endings (2 points), The Whole Truth, Perfect Couples, Chaos, The Paul Reiser Show (1 point), Outlaw, Undercovers, My Generation, Lone Star, Traffic Light (0 points)

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