Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fox True Power Rankings, May 2015

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, rounded up, through Sunday, April 26.

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

Fox ComediesTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Animated Anchors
1Family Guy1.83-3%1.63-9%69%59%6
2The Simpsons1.73-17%1.44-0%57%60%7

Family Guy's really come back to the Fox comedy pack this year. It premiered with one of the most inflated episodes of a veteran series in recent memory, that episode was an hour long so it counted twice, the show is only going to churn out 19 half-hours this year, and yet it will still be just barely up year-to-year in Plus.

Fox ComediesTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Live-Action Second Tier
3The Last Man on Earth1.60-4%1.3554%59%4
4New Girl1.50+1%1.23-22%61%42%7
5Brooklyn Nine-Nine1.50-12%1.36+17%61%57%7

If the long-in-development Bordertown actually makes the fall schedule as has been rumored, that shuts the door on one of the Sunday live-actioners as a fall piece, most likely The Last Man on Earth. If I learned anything last year, it was that early pronouncements about the fall schedule are never set in stone. (Remember Moonves saying CBS would have two new dramas and two new comedies in the fall? Remember the promo after the Parks and Recreation finale saying it'd return in the fall?) So I'll assume it's still at least a little worthwhile to advocate for Last Man getting a chance to grow on Sunday, when the NFL's presence brings in a lot of audience. If not, its only other hope at the fall sked would probably be Fox going with four comedies on Tuesday (and I think the high-profile drama Scream Queens is a better choice for that night).

Another interesting development from this tier is some awful numbers from New Girl since it was joined by megabomb Weird Loners. The show deteriorated late last season too, but this collapse was huge and pretty much all in one shot; it's not an exaggeration to say these last few eps have been Mindy Project-esque. This show still seemed like a strong fall weeknight candidate for most of the year, and it might have made more of a difference to the scheduling if it had been this way for half the season rather than three weeks, but it's still worrying. Maybe there's a heavy Mindy Project symbiosis and they ought to just be unloaded together on Friday? The seemingly top Fox comedy pilots (Rob Lowe's The Grinder and John Stamos' Grandpa) don't seem like a great fit with New Girl anyway. Even if New Girl finds its way back to Tuesday, it's likely at 9:30 and even more of an afterthought.

Fox ComediesTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Low-End Candidates
6Bob's Burgers1.34+1%1.07-22%61%53%6
7The Mindy Project1.23+9%0.99-17%58%35%7

Perhaps even more than Nashville, The Mindy Project is this year's test of what I call the "syndication dogma" (the theorem that three full seasons guarantees a fourth). I don't really believe the show instantly went from like a 45% renewal all the way to a 100% renewal on the day the network ordered six more episodes, but I'll have to admit that it is a rather compelling case if this show ends up unspooling 20-plus episodes on Friday next season. The show is always much higher on the renewability hierarchy than a True ranking suggests because its W18-34 skew has commanded a major ad rates premium historically. But will it really rally much of that crowd if it's airing on Friday after Bones or World's Funniest Fails? It'd be hard not to call that an off-network play.

Fox ComediesTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Dunzo
8Weird Loners0.89-3%0.5551%46%2

Fox DramasTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Elites

It's fair to say that the recent 1.5/1.6's from Gotham are about on par with the 1.9/1.8 it scored in early February when the viewing was higher and there was no Voice. So it's not like Gotham has became something since the hiatus that it had never been before. There are really two ways of looking at it: 1) Those 1.9/1.8 kinda had people in panic mode at the time, and it seemed to have rebounded from that level. So it's not like this is something the show was hoping to revisit. More glass half-full, 2) No one is really watching Fox now anyway, and the network always seems to collapse somewhat at this time of year, so it was to be expected.

Overall, from my perspective it is at least a minor disappointment, and I can't say I think this projects that well for the future. But for now, it's a moot point, because this version of the show is still way, way ahead of...

Fox DramasTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
...The Second Tier?
4The Following1.32-8%1.07-40%41%48%3
5Sleepy Hollow1.26-16%1.37-41%43%49%6

The best thing you can say about Bones is that the True formula doesn't consider it a much different show post-hiatus than pre-hiatus. Most of the 1.0's and 1.1's in April are at least close to equating with the show getting a consistent 1.3 and then ending on a 1.2 in the late fall. The problem is that the pre-hiatus version of Bones was pretty weak, too. This network has so little depth that Bones ranks highly enough to come back, but it isn't something for which they should be bending over backwards financially. It really could be the end.

Since that horrific drop to 1.1 in week two, The Following has held up rather well, and it is still grading out a little better than the last third of Sleepy Hollow's season. Would the Sleepy Hollow getting a 1.4ish out of low-2's Gotham in January and February be able to score 1.2 out of a mid-1's Gotham and 1.1 out of Gotham repeats in late April? I doubt it'd be any better, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was even a teeny bit lower.

Ironically, what may kill The Following this time is the same thing that saved it last season: an early renewal in the clubhouse. Last year, The Following was the beneficiary of this, scoring a renewal very early in its season and then going on to look like a weaker player than Almost Human by the end of its season. Human may have been superior in the end, but the decision was made long before the end. This time, The Following looks at least as worthy as Hollow, but Hollow's the one with the early renewal. Unless development bombs, Fox really doesn't need any more than two dramas at this level, something to fill a Thursday hour in the fall and maybe a Friday hour. They may not even need two, if they're gonna phone it in on Friday with World's Funniest Fails, encores and burn-offs. So The Following probably needs at least the Bones renewal to fall apart, and even that may not be enough.

Fox DramasTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
The Dunzo
8Red Band Society0.98-16%0.6239%36%5

Fox UnscriptedTrueHeatA18-49y2ySkew%MaleCounted Eps
1American Idol Thu2.16-15%2.00-18%31%38%4
2American Idol Wed1.78-36%1.56-24%29%39%5
3MasterChef Junior Spring1.72+0%1.6042%42%3
4MasterChef Junior1.65-1%1.60+18%44%n/a2
5Hell's Kitchen1.50-3%1.23-27%44%45%3
6Hell's Kitchen Fall
7World's Funniest Fails1.09-6%0.8040%47%3
8Utopia Tue1.03-4%0.8059%n/a2
9Utopia Fri1.00+1%0.6345%42%3

With a male drama Monday, an Empire-led Wednesday, a MasterChef Junior and then Idol-led Thursday, and probably comedies and/or Scream Queens on Tuesday, maybe Fox can actually keep Hell's Kitchen out of the regular season in 2015-16? Certainly limiting it to one spring/summer cycle should be realistic. And with this show fading fast, it could use the break.

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