Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case: The Muppets, Fresh Off the Boat, Limitless, Scream Queens

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 Tuesday vets, also premiering tonight unless otherwise indicated.

The Muppets (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsSelfie Fresh Off the Boat
Avg Orig Avg
1.41 1.47 1.07 1.23 1.58 1.81

In a Nutshell: The Muppets was a fast riser in ABC's 2015-16 development season, getting somewhat rushed into a leadoff role on the fall schedule. This series from Kermit and the gang will be a Modern Family-style mockumentary, promising more focus on the Muppets' personal lives.

Best Case: The Muppets are in good hands with The Big Bang Theory's Bill Prady, and the more mature touch keeps this show interesting for more than just family audiences. All indications are that the awareness level is sky-high here, and ABC has cleverly used a very social-savvy marketing campaign with this show. It explodes out of the gate and settles at near-megahit levels, quickly repairing one of ABC's only problem spots from last season. 2.85.

Worst Case: The last Muppets movie was a disappointment at the box office, so let's not kid ourselves into thinking this brand is solid gold every time. And some reviews suggest this grittier approach is taking the show in totally the wrong direction. It underwhelms on premiere night and settles at around a paltry 1.0. 1.16.

Likeliest: I've been concerned about the mockumentary/"personal lives" angle ever since it was announced, and some of the early reviews are not exactly easing my concerns. But I think this show has enough pedigree than it can get that stuff ironed out, and it'll still have an undeniable event feel due to guest stars and such that will help it stay strong. 2.08. Not sure if the logistics allow this show to be extended beyond the initial order, but I'll stick with that average either way... either it does gangbusters and is extended and drops to this average, or it averages this for 13 and is cut off there.

Fresh Off the Boat
1.72 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
102 1.89 Friday 10:00

Timeslot OccupantsManhattan Love Story Repeat After Me
Avg Orig Avg
1.30 1.35 0.95 1.22 1.13 1.29

In a Nutshell: Fresh Off the Boat was the midseason entry in ABC's "year of diversity," fitting right into the Wednesday lineup with its double-episode premiere and then holding high-1's for several weeks in a tough Tuesday lead-off situation. The arrival of The Voice and daylight saving time drove it as low as 1.3 late in the season, but it was still above average for the full season.

Best Case: This show is the best candidate for a sophomore bounce. Lead-in wise, it goes from the local programming outhouse to the Muppets penthouse, and the summer repeat exposure ended on a promising note last Tuesday. It may fit so well with The Muppets that it gets a The Goldbergs-esque 30% sophomore bounce, fringing on big hit territory with a 2.23.

Worst Case: If The Muppets doesn't really pop, then the sophomore bounce could get really held back. The low-1's from late last season may be all that's left for Fresh Off the Boat in the fall. Tack on some even lower-1's when it's leading off late in the season and it's actually a low-end bubble show for season three with a 1.15.

Likeliest: I was mostly impressed with what this show was able to do in a tough spot last year. I think it's gonna have surprisingly great retention even when The Muppets is on, and not drop that much if/when the Muppets season ends. Airing in the fall surely helps the average, but I see it with a real chance to be even/up in raw numbers year-to-year in the spring too. 1.77, upticking from last year's average. (That'd be quite impressive since it was inflated by the double-premiere last year!)

Limitless (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsPerson of Interest
Avg Orig Avg
1.43 1.51 1.54 1.58

In a Nutshell: CBS' latest entry in its long-troubled Tuesday 10/9c hour is based on the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie Limitless, and Cooper will actually appear on the series.

Best Case: Somehow, a freakin' CBS procedural has wrangled a bonafide A-list movie star to recur. That is the jolt CBS needs to enliven this timeslot, and that will prop up the early interest like almost nothing else could possibly do here. It actually manages to get very close to the Scorpion Plus from last season, which is a massive triumph for a 10:00 CBS drama. 2.05.

Worst Case: This has the same general premise as the CBS bomb Intelligence from two years ago, except now with less appealing leads. It's in the same vicinity as Intelligence's 71 Plus, if not lower, which means that when the dust settles it is barely holding half of its incompatible NCIS: NO lead-in. 1.01 and done after the fall.

Likeliest: I still feel somewhat burned from predicting two years ago that Person of Interest would breeze into this slot and fully retain NCIS: LA. And I feel like if Bradley Cooper were really gonna help this thing pop, there would be some kind of social media/awareness indicator by now. So the early expectations should probably be somewhat tempered. Still, it feels like this is somewhat in the Scorpion vein, which seems like the type of drama CBS should be shooting for now. I think it can squeak past PoI's Plus from last season, though not quite match PoI's first season on the night. 1.43 and the best bet for renewal out of CBS' early fall slate.

Scream Queens (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsNew Girl The Mindy Project Weird Loners
Avg Orig Avg
1.18 1.12 1.32 1.51 1.06 1.17 0.62 0.92

In a Nutshell: Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy is essentially combining the two for this high-profile horror show set around a college sorority. The youth-friendly cast includes Emma Roberts, Keke Palmer, Lea Michele, Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande among many others.

Best Case: Scream Queens has tracked extremely well in awareness, especially for a show not built on an existing brand. Plenty of this show's cast members are practically existing brands themselves, and they'll all come together for a simply massive premiere rating, maybe even topping what Empire did last winter. The show itself is perfectly catered to the crowd that will tune in, meaning Fox has found its second megahit drama in as many years: 3.20.

Worst Case: This show will trend like wildfire on Twitter. But so did the embarrassingly low closing seasons of The X Factor and Glee. Scream Queens is just too cheesy to appeal to anyone outside of the crazy social media crowd, and after big week two and three drops it becomes clear this is one high-profile flop. 1.05.

Likeliest: This show just seems too star-studded and too splashy conceptually not to open big. But the more I see of promos, the more I'm worried it could collapse pretty quickly afterward. Maybe I'm just not in the target demo. And since it has a double-premiere and a limited order, I kinda have to give it a big average either way. I think it'll start strong enough that it can stay close to a 2 down the stretch even if it drops a long way. The trend may not bode great for season two, but it's stout at a 2.18.

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