The links below in each category are to the old theme posts (most 2006-12), but I will update these links as the new theme posts come out over the course of the summer.
Defining Shows/Overall Thoughts:
In November 2007, the Writers Guild of America writers went on strike, halting production on nearly every primetime scripted show. Almost nothing scripted produced a full season.
Though this seemed quite likely well ahead of time, the networks pretty much programmed the fall as if there wouldn't be a strike, so most shows had run out of episodes at the end of the fall or maybe a few weeks into 2008. The strike wasn't resolved till February, and so the new episodes didn't start trickling back in until about mid-March. And that was mostly just some quick-turnaround multicamera comedies; most dramas didn't return till around mid-April, and quite a few shows didn't even return until the next season. This created a prolonged dead time in the middle of the primetime season. It was almost like a second summer, and several networks programmed it that way. The effects of this shutdown were felt in almost all of the big picture metrics examined in this post.
The network best poised to take advantage of this was certainly Fox, whose juggernaut American Idol (319/299) wasn't affected by the goings on. And plenty of other unscripted successes emerged on Fox, fueling likely their strongest relative season ever: fall newbie Kitchen Nightmares (89), an in-season, post-Idol edition of Hell's Kitchen (142), breakout game show The Moment of Truth (174) and the respectable Thursday game show tandem of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (77) and Don't Forget the Lyrics (81). However, the strike was not without its effects even on Fox. Namely, they had to shut down House (215), one of the hottest shows on TV in late 2007 in posting its best fall ever. Fox rewarded it with a post-Super Bowl berth, but the show awkwardly had just two other episodes coming into 2008. It aired an episode on 1/29/08, a post-SB episode five days later, another ep two days after that, and then it vanished for nearly three months.
ABC finished second in entertainment average, but it saw much of its momentum halt. Their megahits Grey's Anatomy (218) and Desperate Housewives (205), like House, came back from the strike much weaker than they'd been before. The once promising all-newbie Wednesday lineup, led by Private Practice (128) and Pushing Daisies (98), was done by early December and didn't go back into production. The shows were never the same when they returned the next fall. Because many of their scripted shows in this serialized drama-heavy period didn't repeat well, ABC had to air a ton of filler: Wife Swap (69), Supernanny (84), Dancing with the Stars spin-off Dance War (80), and prank show Just for Laughs (41).
NBC, like Fox, was less reliant on a scripted framework (mostly because they didn't really have one), so they held on a little better than ABC and CBS. Most egregious was the whooping 75 in-season hours of Deal or No Deal (85), but other unscripted offerings like newbies American Gladiators (128) and Celebrity Apprentice (108) posted legitimately nice ratings.
CBS had its worst season in the A18-49+ era as they mostly just resorted to their traditional summer strategy: air Big Brother, and otherwise pretty much just turn off the lights. It was one of the Big Brother franchise's weakest seasons (70/65/71). However, though this was a low point for the network, they ended up recovering from the strike's effects better than almost everyone. Their Monday comedy lineup went back into originals nearly a month before most scripted offerings, and Two and a Half Men (151) and How I Met Your Mother (107) turned that into momentum they would build upon in the future.
Hits: Private Practice (128)
Solid: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (117), Samantha Who? (111), Bionic Woman (106)
Sub-solid renewals: The Big Bang Theory (99), Pushing Daisies (98), Chuck (93), Dirty Sexy Money (88), Life (81), Lipstick Jungle (76), Eli Stone (75)
Renews by network: ABC 5, NBC 3, CBS 1, Fox 1
The WGA strike has an interesting effect on these numbers. While it was a weak year in terms of solid/hit shows, the shortened seasons for big scripted hits (and a lot of reality junk filling in) lowered the entertainment average, meaning a relatively low percentage of outright flops. The strike chaos also probably got a lot of shows renewed that wouldn't have been with a full season. A staggering seven of the 10 renewals went only one more season. However, slow starter but eventual megahit The Big Bang Theory almost singlehandedly lifts this class above some others. Chuck somehow eked out five seasons, and Private Practice made it six, but in the end there was very little long-term impact outside of TBBT.
Of the five years of relative network stagnation (2006-11), this one had the most movement, mostly due to strike-related deflations. In addition to the aforementioned ABC and CBS, the CW was also a heavily scripted-reliant network, and it took its own significant step down. For Fox, it was their strongest year in the A18-49+ era (and if I had the numbers, I'd guess almost certainly their strongest year in network history), while NBC had the best year of its seven-year dead time from 2005-12.
Days of the Week:
Tuesday took over as the strongest day of the week in 2007-08, becoming the third day in as many years to top the chart. To a large extent, they simply backed into this, because Tuesday with its full-strength American Idol was not as filled with scripted programming as previous champ Thursday. Tuesday would hold the day crown for the next two seasons before taking a huge descent after American Idol left.
Time of Day:
The 10:00 hour fell big yet again in this season, though some of that was because the 10:00 hour is the most reliant on scripted programs. (In other words, it has the least reality.) It would rebound a bit in 2008-09, but not much, and would drop back below this number in subsequent seasons.
*- I don't have the half-hour breakdowns entered for 2006-07 thru 2009-10, so for now I will break these seasons down by hour rather than by half-hour. They'll probably be a bit off, since two-hour telecasts won't be broken out exactly right, but they're close enough to get a good general idea by hour.
Repeats & Sports/Specials:
I've noted before that the percentages of real estate for originals and reruns have stayed surprisingly steady over the years. By that standard, this season's shortened scripted seasons made an impact. The 61% originals were the lowest in the A18-49+ era (the other seasons fall from 62% to 66%), while the 23% reruns was tied for the most. But that's not a very big difference considering most scripted seasons were shortened by about a third. Most of that original deficit was made up with filler.
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