Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CBS True Power Rankings, May 2014

The upfront extravaganza is finally here! Every weekday for the next three weeks, this blog will have a meaty piece of coverage surrounding the annual schedule releases. It starts this week with the season's final edition of the True Power Rankings, the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging deep into the merits of individual shows by network. Next week come the Upfront Questions, the SCHEDULE-centric look ahead to upfront week. The following week, the schedules come out, and with them come the Upfront Answers.

The True/A18-49 averages cover the last one-third of aired episodes this season through April 20, rounded up.

Other May True Power Rankings: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Elite
1The Big Bang Theory5.665.0337%-3%7
2How I Met Your Mother3.323.3748%-1%7

The Big Bang Theory will reportedly start the fall on Monday while CBS airs Thursday Night Football. Does it stay there, or does it return to Thursday once TNF is over? Should it stay or return? On both counts, I lean strongly toward return to Thursday. It's a bit of a jerk-around for TBBT, but this show can handle that better than most. And a move to Monday would probably hurt Thursday more than staying would hurt Monday. After all, Thursday may soon have to deal with losing Two and a Half Men as well.

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Anchor Candidates
3The Millers2.332.6431%7
42 Broke Girls2.312.5640%-25%7
5Two and a Half Men2.312.3332%-41%7
6Mike and Molly2.082.0033%-26%6

Assuming no newbie snags an anchor spot (it worked so well for The Crazy Ones), three of these four have to be at the top of an hour. That's a somewhat harrowing proposition for CBS, since these shows aren't all that strong, but it's reality. So which one is not an anchor?

I've been advocating for 2 Broke Girls all season, but I still worried greatly about it collapsing at 8/7c. Now that it's held up pretty well there, it should be an anchor. The only way it's possibly not is if the Monday newbie (likely How I Met Your Dad) looks so good in its airings after Big Bang that it shifts to 8/7c after that's over. 2 Broke Girls could be the CBS Monday show that sits out the early fall, or it could temporarily jettison Mike and Molly from the 9/8c slot, allowing it to start the fall, then move to the 8:00 hour in November. It probably only gets 9/8c permanently in the unlikely case that TBBT stays on Monday all season; otherwise, it's the best option as a decent pairing with HIMYD after Big Bang departs.

The True scores Mike and Molly is the fifth option for four anchor spots, but I have a feeling it stays at 9/8c in a classic "minimize the moves" maneuver by CBS. It is possible that it's the Monday show held till November with Big Bang in town, with 2BG starting at 9/8c and later shifting into the 8:00 hour. That would closely mirror what played out this season, after all.

That leaves The Millers and Two and a Half Men in a probable duel for the 9/8c role on Thursday. My formula is higher on The Millers than the perception seems to be, because of how low-viewed the Thursday 8/7c hour is. But the schedule will give us some sense of what CBS thinks. How much "shepherding" does their studio production The Millers need to get to syndication? The closer its proximity to The Big Bang Theory, the better for The Millers (and arguably the worse for the network ratings). If they feel the need to play it extremely safe, it could go to 8:30 and soak up Big Bang for another year. I think the best schedule in terms of pure ratings puts Two and a Half Men at 9:00 and Millers at 9:30. The best bet in terms of what will happen could be in the middle; a newbie like The Odd Couple gets 8:30, The Millers stays in relatively close proximity at 9:00, and Men returns to 9:30. But I'm rooting for Millers at 9:30.

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Bottom-Of-Hour Candidates
9Friends with Better Lives1.681.8042%1
10The Crazy Ones1.631.6632%8

I'd be pretty surprised if Mom doesn't return to Monday at 9:30. It was one of those shows like The Goldbergs that seemed to be getting its act together in the late fall/winter, but real momentum never truly materialized. I wouldn't mind CBS putting Big Bang at 9/8c for its Monday weeks just to see what Mom does with a huge lead-in infusion, but I can't say with any real conviction that they should do that.

That leaves Friends with Better Lives and The Crazy Ones, which seem a clear level below Mom. Bad Teacher, not yet pictured, will also go a level below Mom unless it holds nearly its whole premiere rating. This is not so much about which comedy has a strong case to belong in the next tier (it looks unlikely any of them will) but whether CBS will feel a scheduling compulsion to make a seventh comedy renewal, giving them a returnee in reserve.

"They sure liked having Mike and Molly in reserve last year!" you say. Yes, but there's a big difference between a four returnee/four newbie comedy lineup and the six returnee/two newbie one that Les Moonves has hinted at. Four newbie slots out of eight total is spreading oneself pretty thin, and it was very likely at least one would need to be replaced quickly. With two newbie slots, that's less likely, and it's extremely unlikely that two slots will need swift action. Even if one completely bombs, I'd probably rather have an average newbie #3 over something like Friends with Better Lives or The Crazy Ones (or Bad Teacher, assuming a similar level). Below-average development could be the difference here, but in a vacuum, returnee #7 is far from a necessity.

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo
8We Are Men1.691.8040%1

Since it aired just two episodes, We Are Men's one-episode average actually grades narrowly ahead of FWBL and The Crazy Ones' recent deliveries. If it had aired 22, it'd likely be behind The Crazy Ones, but here we are. Couldn't you have burnt a few off on Saturday to drive this average down, CBS?

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Elite
2Criminal Minds2.602.3929%-13%7

Person of Interest looked like it could be inching up into this elite territory for CBS last season, but a disappointing season on Tuesday at 10/9c has pretty well dashed that. So CBS is still searching for a long-term elite drama option. It's now been eight seasons since their last one...

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Moving Candidates
3NCIS: Los Angeles2.202.2721%-15%7
7Person of Interest1.841.8621%-32%7

CBS usually tries to make about just one or two drama moves per season, and these seem to be the most serious candidates.

CSI has inched up the rankings of late, but I still think it is by a good margin the strongest candidate to take The Mentalist's slot as the show being put out to pasture on Sunday. CBS has been doing this kind of thing on Sunday for quite awhile now. The other choices are much younger, and CSI would be vacating a Wednesday 10/9c slot that is good for a new drama.

Here's hoping that CBS recognizes just how rough the Monday 10/9c slot was and moves a veteran there. The odds would say NBC will not strike as much gold there next year as they did with The Blacklist, but Hostages being DOA and Intelligence dropping fifty percent weren't entirely Blacklist-driven. I think it's one of the two lesser Tuesday dramas, NCIS: Los Angeles or Person of Interest, and the repeat tea leaf reading supports this; both are getting two repeat tryouts in the slot prior to the upfronts. Of the two, the more elegant solution seems to be NCIS: LA. It opens up the 9/8c hour for the new NCIS without making an extra move, and a tri-NCIS Tuesday may be leaning toward overkill anyway. But don't rule out the WB series getting thrown under the bus in service of the CBS Studios series...

I almost hate to even include Elementary on this list, but Moonves mentioned that other Thursday shows could air elsewhere due to the Thursday Night Football effect. The door to an Elementary move must thus at least be left open, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. A year after CBS had a huge nightmare trying to launch new dramas out of a comedy block, they're going to do it again on another night?! With a veteran already entrenched in this pretty difficult slot, CBS should keep Elementary put as long as they can possibly justify it. Moving it to Monday 10/9c permanently just shifts the problem to another night while adding an extraneous move. And it's not a show whose ratings are so huge that it absolutely needs to be a part of the initial fall rollout, like The Big Bang Theory. Just hold it till after football.

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
Staying Low-Priority
6Hawaii Five-01.871.4619%-35%7
8Blue Bloods1.831.4415%-2%7
10The Good Wife1.511.4320%-12%6

These shows are all in low-priority territory and none of them are begging to be given higher priority. I don't see any of them changing slots. The only possible exception is CSI on Sunday maybe being enough of a CBS favorite that it could get The Good Wife bumped to 10/9c.

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Presumed Dunzo
9The Mentalist1.641.4521%-15%6

Something's gotta go, and after showing some real bite in December and January, The Mentalist cooled off again. It's still stronger than The Good Wife, but so was CSI: Miami. CBS knows what they're doing with The Good Wife, and they will happily do it again this year.

CBS UnscriptedTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
1Survivor Spring2.752.3332%-6%3
2Survivor Fall2.342.3432%-13%5
3The Amazing Race Spring1.891.8328%-25%3
4The Amazing Race Fall1.801.9828%-22%4
5Undercover Boss1.781.4423%-6%5
660 Minutes1.531.6422%-8%8
748 Hours1.080.7622%-18%8

The Amazing Race had a bad fall, but it was unclear if that was a trend or one bad season. It seems more like trend now, as the spring season is down a similar amount. This is still not a cancellation-worthy level; the show had basically the same A18-49+ (100-110) for the first few years after it moved to Sunday in the mid-aughts. But it'll be something to keep a real eye on next season. My pet idea here is for the network to order one Race and have it share a slot with a 15ish-episode The Good Wife season, which would open up an additional schedule hour for the network. But this is more of a 2015-16 idea than a 2014-15 one.

Does Undercover Boss get back on the fall schedule? It was down just 6% last season. That was helped a bit by the season airing two months earlier than last year, but overall the fall Boss run was a success, and it may have played some role in the lead-out dramas overachieving for much of the year. Keep it there.

1 comment:

Spot said...

Part of the reason that I thought 2.5 Men was a :30 show to start this season was to give CBS a chance to find a new sitcom anchor. And it sort of makes sense when you look back at 2012-2013 also: bumping 2.5 Men to 8:30 Thursdays gave then-red hot 2 Broke Girls a chance to hold down Mondays. Giving second-year dramas a strong lead-in (Person of Interest, Elementary) was an added bonus. Moving Men back to 9:00 admitted a few things: The Crazy Ones specifically didn't work, Elementary is its own beast that's isn't overly reliant on lead-ins, and CBS still needs the show to anchor an hour generally. I definitely think it has a leg up on The Millers for the :00 hour.

Speaking of Elementary, from a ratings standpoint I don't see why Les Moonves is so enamored with the show that he thinks it needs to be on in September. I'd personally only move The Big Bang Theory and put the remaining Thursday shows on ice to minimize scheduling movement; that gives CBS fewer rerun weeks that it can capitalize on in January.

NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber are less likely possibilities, but they could conceivably in contention for the Monday at 10:00 slot. It would be still a branded show and since NBC is very likely to utilize The Blacklist elsewhere the slot would be somewhat easier. My personal odds are NCIS: LA (40%), Person of Interest (35%), NCIS: NoLa (20%), CSI: Cyber (5%) just based on how I'd schedule CBS as a while. Cyber, in particular, has sounded like a better fit in a post-Criminal Minds slot.

No way that I see Undercover Boss not coming back in the Fall if only because CBS has historically liked to keep one night intact. Fridays are more likely than Wednesdays with its good-not-great feel.

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