|Once Upon a Time|
|Premieres September 28|
|Timeslot Occupants||Once Upon a Time|
Best Case: Last season of Once Upon a Time was really two different seasons, and the second one went a lot better. The fall season was massively down from fall 2012, often a third or more. And the spring season was close to exactly even. The injection of Frozen, a big-time movie franchise that is a perfect fit on this show, will only keep up (maybe even accelerate) the positive momentum. CBS gets much weaker with their Madam Secretary experiment. Even if it starts to taper off late in the year, it's just above even at 2.25.
Worst Case: Frozen may be a hot brand in pop culture, but that also means it carries big expectations. The Once Upon a Time version doesn't even come close to meeting those, so the fall season collapses early and ends up down more than average. Then comes another terrible storyline in the second half, which goes massively behind the good numbers from last spring. Down 27% to 1.60.
Likeliest: It's hard to imagine Frozen being more of a misfire than Once's months of trudging through a dark forest last fall. Combine that with a solid finish to last season and I doubt the fall run will be down average or more. The unknown is where Once goes in the second half of the season. Keeping up the very strong spring 2014 pace would be a challenge, so sight unseen I'll say that falls off somewhat and is down a bit more than average. It adds up to just a hair less than a league average drop at 1.98.
|Madam Secretary (NEW!)|
|Premieres September 21|
|Timeslot Occupants||The Amazing Race Fall||The Amazing Race Spring|
Best Case: This is some extremely smart scheduling by CBS, and they'll get rewarded for it. The people who stick around for 60 Minutes after the NFL is over are also the exact people who would be interested in Madam Secretary. Enough of the NFL samplers stick around that it does a few ticks better than The Good Wife even when the NFL isn't on, and that's more than good enough for renewal given the affluent audience. 1.70.
Worst Case: You know you're a long shot when your ratings ceiling is "another The Good Wife" and just getting to that point requires an Emmy nomination level of quality. This show doesn't have that kind of quality, or even the quality of USA's ratings-challenged Political Animals from a couple years back. And it's apparent very early. Even on NFL nights, it does no better than its Good Wife lead-out, and it's a huge black hole in the Sunday lineup when it doesn't. 0.90 and gone in a month.
Likeliest: As I said in May, I do think this scheduling was ingenious, basically the only way it could've had any chance at all. So I'm kinda rooting for it to work just for that reason. But I still think it's a long shot. It's such an old-skewing concept that the ratings ceiling is low, and it's hard to make a bet on it being as good as TGW. The NFL will help this show have a slightly better average than The Good Wife, but it'll be the Sunday weak link when the NFL isn't on. CBS will ride it out for much of the fall, but there are enough reserves that they'll shake it up in the winter. 1.32.
|Sunday Night Football|
|Premieres September 4|
|Timeslot Occupants||Football Night p3||Sunday Night Football||American Dream Builders|
Best Case: The franchise has been down in raw numbers for the last two years, and by NFL standards that's "underachievement." It will even out from that and return to its 8.36 raw numbers zenith from two years ago, marking a +6% season.
Worst Case: The NFL has simply reached a point where it can't really grow anymore. And in fact, a rather discouraging preseason suggests it may be on a cultural downturn. A third major primetime package on Thursday oversaturates the NFL market. Sunday Night Football drops about in line with entertainment programming, if not a bit more, down over 10% to 7.00.
Likeliest: Preseason returns are not exactly encouraging, but they're probably not all that meaningful either. Still, factor in that and the added Thursday games and I think the year-to-year trend will continue to ever-so-slightly worsen. But I can't see it getting down into entertainment programming decline territory. Down about 4.5% to a 7.55.
|Premieres September 28|
|Timeslot Occupants||The Simpsons|
Best Case: FXX's very buzzy #EverySimpsonsEver marathon has totally reinvigorated the interest in this show, and the NFL boosts the show gets in the fall are increasingly powerful. It breaks even at a 2.22, posting its highest A18-49+ in the era.
Worst Case: Actually, FXX's #EverySimpsonsEver marathon just reminded people how much the quality has declined over the years, and previous viewers of new Simpsons episodes actually start eschewing those in favor of the repeats on FXX and the app. Down 18% to 1.82.
Likeliest: I don't really see the Simpsons buzz from this summer having much of a net impact. Maybe it's a very tiny positive one. Because of the slightly more powerful NFL boost, it's down just a tad less than league average to 2.01.
|Premieres September 28|
|Timeslot Occupants||Bob's Burgers||Family Guy|
Best Case: This show fits like a glove in Fox's male-skewing Sunday environment, with a brand of humor much better-suited than previous family comedy efforts like The War at Home. It has retention in line with the best animated comedies Fox has had here recently, which creates a massive bounce to 1.87.
Worst Case: This basically has the same kind of dynamic with The Simpsons as Arrested Development did ten years ago, meaning 65%-ish retention. But it doesn't build Arrested-esque buzz, so it even goes a little lower late in the season. It could go as low as 1.23 for the full season (but if it's this ugly, it's more likely it gets bumped into the 7:00 hour with Bob's Burgers upgraded to 8:30).
Likeliest: This feels like a redux of the Arrested Development move after The Simpsons, in which the show gets a ratings upgrade but not so much of one that Fox feels great about the move. However, Brooklyn had better ratings in a considerably worse situation than season one of Arrested, so it will be stronger on the whole here. I think it does better in Plus than last season but still a little over a tenth worse than something like Bob's Burgers would've done. Down 3% to a 1.45. Renewal may come down to whether the new regime likes it as much as Kevin Reilly did.
The Network to Watch: I'll take CBS with the newbie, but Fox's live-action experiment is close behind.
The Picks: Once Upon a Time and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I'll try out the Madam Secretary pilot, but I'd be surprised if it could knock either of the above off of a DVR tuner.