Monday, September 21, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case: Life in Pieces, Scorpion, Blindspot, Gotham, Minority Report

Best Case/Worst Case lays out possible scenarios for broadcast primetime TV seasons yet to premiere.

This season, each show gets previewed on the day it premieres... except for the premiere week veterans, which we did last week. Here are the Premiere Monday vets, also premiering tonight unless otherwise indicated.

Life in Pieces (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsThe Millers Mike and Molly
Avg Orig Avg
2.06 2.03 1.68 1.55 1.95 1.93

In a Nutshell: CBS' Life in Pieces will become the first single-camera comedy to regularly air after megahit The Big Bang Theory. The family comedy boasts a star-studded cast, including multiple-Oscar winner Dianne Wiest.

Best Case: CBS has been trying for years to find the next The Big Bang Theory, and now they're moving on to the next Modern Family. It's a great decision, since family is the way the comedy wind has been blowing in the last couple years, and this one seems to have the positive reviews to back it up. It's amazing what can happen when an actual good show gets the Big Bang lead-in! It has good retention of TBBT from the start, dips a little post-premiere but ultimately starts improving again, ending up at around 75%. 2.70, basically matching Two and a Half Men's Plus that year that it had the Big Bang lead-in on Thursday.

Worst Case: Life in Pieces has a lot of the ingredients in place for a quick hook: it can be easily replaced in the short term (it's hard to get better ratings than TBBT repeats), it can be easily replaced in the long term (CBS has three returning comedies on the bench!), CBS doesn't own it, and it's also in a high-stakes situation, since it leads into the promising sophomore Scorpion. The critics may like it, but it is wildly incompatible with Big Bang, and these multicam-singlecam pairings have often produced some historically awful retention. It's below 50% retention in very short order and averages a 1.55. (It'd probably require some crazy patience on CBS' part to let the average get this low with a Big Bang lead-in, but I'm keeping my options open.)

Likeliest: I think this show looks fine, and the cast is great, so I have at least some hope that it doesn't tank immediately. But the whole "four stories" marketing is pretty pretentious stuff that I don't think anyone's really going to care about. And the compatibility is too much of a red flag. So I see this becoming a situation a lot like The Millers season one, where it has a blah start and ends up hovering around 50% retention for most of the way. Will CBS show as much patience to a show they don't own with so much more backup? My guess is it gets a small extension, makes way for one of the backups in the late winter, and (unless there's Modern Family-esque acclaim) probably gets cancelled as small-extended shows almost always do. 1.98. This average is only for 8:30 airings after Big Bang, but I will go a tenth lower if it gets multiple airings with repeat lead-ins.

2.30 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
137 2.18 Monday 9:00

Timeslot OccupantsScorpion
Avg Orig Avg
2.06 2.14 2.26 2.17

In a Nutshell: Scorpion was the new drama that put an end to decades of two-hour Monday comedy, but it turned out to be a very worthy reason to do so. It built from most of its 8:30 comedy lead-ins and had the biggest relative rating for a new CBS drama since CSI: Miami over a decade ago.

Best Case: Scorpion had a promising spike for the finale, and there's going to be something huge in the lead-in 8:00 hour all season long: either The Big Bang Theory or Supergirl. This will be much like Person of Interest season two, which had upgraded lead-ins and was able to be even in raw numbers. Except Scorpion is even more friendly to the casual audiences that will be leading in! Up 10% to a 2.53.

Worst Case: Scorpion's average last season was inflated by early-season ratings that it surely won't revisit. Killing another comedy hour blows up in CBS' face as Supergirl severely disappoints at 8/7c, and Scorpion just doesn't have the core following to bring in an audience from scratch. It's one of the season's most disappointing sophomore slumps, down a third to 1.55.

Likeliest: It's a big ask for this show just to match last season's Plus, especially since last season's average includes two big early episodes and another one with a football lead-in. But it's a sophomore procedural that ended last season well and got repeated all summer. I expect Supergirl to be an upgrade on the comedies for the most part, and it will also be a little more compatible. It's not gonna get as much of a lead-in uptick as PoI had in season two, so going even seems a bit too ambitious. But it will be down only 7% to a 2.15, very close to even in raw numbers if you throw out the aforementioned three eps.

Blindspot (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsThe Blacklist State of Affairs The Night Shift
Avg Orig Avg
1.59 1.62 2.69 2.37 1.25 1.31 1.32 1.16

In a Nutshell: After airing three different dramas in the Monday 10/9c time period after The Voice, NBC is hoping for more stability this year with one of its developmental darlings, a thriller starring Thor's Jaimie Alexander.

Best Case: This is basically The Blacklist but with more genre appeal, including a recognizable lead for the Marvel audience. It faces two weakening procedurals and is able to stand out as an alternative for the younger audience. 2.55, beating The Blacklist's season one Plus and retaining over 80% of The Voice.

Worst Case: State of Affairs seemed like the same kind of show as The Blacklist too, and that quickly became a mess. In fact, NBC has a huge graveyard of Blacklist rip-offs from last season alone, and this will soon join them. 1.15, including a few without-Voice airings to wrap up its initial order in the winter, and NBC starts all over again at 10/9c in the spring.

Likeliest: It isn't going to be The Blacklist; the promos and the show just don't bring the personality and pop that James Spader did. But The Blacklist demonstrated that The Voice's audience likes this kind of show, and Blindspot sure seems like a worthy offering in the same vicinity. I don't see it starting quite as well as The Blacklist or Revolution, but it will hold on post-premiere better than Revolution did and end up with a similar Plus to that series. 1.85 and an easy renew.

2.18 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
129 2.24 Monday 8:00

Timeslot OccupantsGotham
Avg Orig Avg
1.65 2.05 2.18 2.24

In a Nutshell: Fox's Batman prequel started big with a 3.3 and settled into a nice low-2's groove for the rest of the fall. After a bit of a roller-coaster winter (dropping from 2.5 to 1.8 in a month, then back up to 2.3 two weeks later), it went on hiatus in the early spring and returned at new low levels after daylight saving time, averaging just a 1.6 for the four late-spring eps.

Best Case: The long hiatus with micro-rated repeats tanking the timeslot last year was just dumb scheduling. More promotion should be able to get a creatively improved Gotham most of the way back to the level it maintained for the first 80% of the season. It has a nice run of low 2's in the fall, helped by some Minority Report heat, before a long string of high-1's in 2016. That adds up to a 1.93, down 12%.

Worst Case: This is a very comparable situation to last season's genre hits Agents of SHIELD and Sleepy Hollow, and those shows didn't even drop as much at the end of the season as Gotham did! It gets back to a low-end spring number for the premiere and is in new series low territory by week two. Low 1's are the norm for most of the way, and maybe even very low-1's if Supergirl snatches a chunk of its audience. 1.20, down 45%.

Likeliest: It's possible that the afterthought April/May run was a little bit of a fluke, but I'd still be pleasantly surprised if it can get back to 2.0 beyond the premiere. Not sure how Supergirl will affect this show, since it's presumably going after a more female audience, but it can't possibly be a good thing. Maybe Gotham can put up some high-1's early in the fall, especially if Minority Report does well, but by the time Supergirl arrives it'll be back to those late spring mid-1's, with some low-1's thrown in. Down nearly a third to 1.53.

Minority Report (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsSleepy Hollow The Following
Avg Orig Avg
1.25 1.38 1.54 1.44 1.13 1.33

In a Nutshell: With Sleepy Hollow and The Following both gone from Monday, Fox starts over at 9/8c with a sequel to the 2002 Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg film about people with precognition who can prevent crimes before they happen. The movie premise is tortured to suit a weekly series; his visions are clouded, providing us only just enough information to solve this thing in 42 minutes!

Best Case: Genre shows almost always start well, and this one has the name recognition to continue that tradition. Like Sleepy Hollow two years ago, the real appeal of the show is some good chemistry between the two leads. It regularly builds big on Gotham and posts a Plus in the same vicinity as Sleepy Hollow season one: 2.10.

Worst Case: Fox has a nice history of genre programming in the Monday 9/8c hour, but it's mostly because CBS was going in the comedy direction. Scorpion is going to eat up most of the audience that might have tried this. Almost nobody remembers the 13-year old movie, and the people that do want more sci-fi and less procedural than this. A surprisingly low start peters out into a string of high zeros. 0.88 and not seen again after the fall.

Likeliest: Was not a fan of the pilot. It feels like another Almost Human or Terra Nova situation in the making, where they try to please a lot of different masters and thus don't really please anyone. And without dinosaurs or an NFL preview, it's gonna be a tougher ask to break the league average as those shows did. I see it doing close to the same Plus as Sleepy Hollow last year and being on the bubble, though if it holds well post-premiere it might stack up better than SH did since the Gotham lead-in will be weaker. 1.35.

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