Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case, Premiere Wednesday Vets: The Goldbergs, Modern Family, SVU and more!

The acclaimed season preview Best Case/Worst Case is back for a fourth season, laying out possible scenarios for broadcast primetime TV seasons yet to premiere. This year, each show will be previewed on the day it premieres... with the exception of this week, when we're knocking out some of the numerous premiere week predictions a week early. Most of these posts will preview only premiere week veteran series today, with rookies and sophomores coming next week. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows previewed this week premiere exactly one week after the day of the post.

The Middle
2.00 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
119 2.16 Wednesday 8:00
y2y:-3% +9%

Timeslot OccupantsThe Middle
Avg Orig Avg
1.89 1.96 2.00 2.16

In a Nutshell: ABC's Wednesday lead-off comedy The Middle has always gotten a lot less attention than multiple Emmy-winner Modern Family, but it has also aged a bit more gracefully than Modern in the past few years. It nearly held its 110 Plus from 2011-12 over the next two seasons, then shot up to a new one last season.

Best Case: Keep in mind that most of the show's worst points were actually early in the season, and (perhaps with the exception of the finale) it seemed to be strengthening as the season progressed. It may well continue to be even (or better?!) in raw numbers through the fall. Even if some declines set in for the spring, it can go even in raw numbers for the whole season: 2.00.

Worst Case: There was no real heat for The Middle's finale, and it's had some pretty weak repeats this summer. It can't get back to 2.0 for the premiere, and it will take a more realistic post-DST hit this year: -20% to a 1.60.

Likeliest: I predicted even raw numbers last year largely based on the summer repeat heat, and I certainly don't detect any of that this year. But the show was still frequently even or up year-to-year late in the original season. That makes it the best bet of the ABC Wednesday gang to improve in Plus, especially since it gets stuff like Rosewood and The Mysteries of Laura as competitors. -8% to a 1.84.

The Goldbergs
2.18 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
130 2.24 Wednesday 8:30
y2y:+30% +45%

Timeslot OccupantsThe Goldbergs
Avg Orig Avg
2.06 2.16 2.19 2.25

In a Nutshell: In a move from Tuesday after Agents of SHIELD to Wednesday after way more compatible The Middle, ABC comedy The Goldbergs had one of the biggest sophomore bounces on record. It built on its Middle lead-in in 18-49 for 22 out of 24 originals (and tied it the other two).

Best Case: This is still a relatively young show that is building audience, and it's also not facing Empire. That means it has the most upside of anything on ABC Wednesday. It inches up in raw numbers to a 2.20 average, fast approaching big hit territory.

Worst Case: Its summer repeats have been perhaps most alarming of all, down even more year-to-year than those of The Middle or Modern Family. It's due to give back some of the heat it brought to this slot last year. Down 22% to a 1.70, and it's no longer consistently building on The Middle.

Likeliest: I want to be more optimistic with the younger show here, but I'm scared off by the weaker summer repeats. Regardless, it's gonna do just fine, with a year-to-year trend somewhere in the space between lead-in The Middle and lead-out Modern Family. That means it's very very close to even in Plus, -10% to a 1.96. It's still a bit ahead of The Middle the majority of the time.

Modern Family
3.19 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
190 3.07 Wednesday 9:00
y2y:-10% +1%

Timeslot OccupantsModern Family
Avg Orig Avg
2.78 3.19 3.19 3.07

In a Nutshell: ABC's Wednesday centerpiece has long been surrounded by mediocre and/or wildly incompatible pieces, and it declined more than league average for two years after its 2011-12 zenith. But a much more cohesive lineup in 2014-15, including a 40%+ lead-in improvement, allowed Modern Family to decline slightly less than average.

Best Case: This lineup is trending really well, and Modern Family just keeps riding the wave. Another improbable year of Plus growth, down just 8% to a 2.94.

Worst Case: It finally loses at the Emmys. It's facing Empire a lot. That awful-rated finale after 500 Questions somehow wasn't a fluke. And it was really propped up last year by how drastically its lead-in and lead-out improved. It's down over 25% to a 2.35, marking its second-lowest Plus ever.

Likeliest: Before last year when the conditions improved drastically, Modern Family had taken two straight 16% declines. That seems about right again here, since the show has generally trended worse than The Middle and also has Empire in the mix as competition. 2.68.

1.34 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
80 1.46 Wednesday 10:00
y2y:-9% +2%

Timeslot OccupantsNashville
Avg Orig Avg
1.33 1.32 1.34 1.46

In a Nutshell: ABC's country music drama slumped into marginal territory in its sophomore season. But as with Modern Family, Nashville was able to stay at that level or improve slightly in 2014-15 with a greatly improved lead-in.

Best Case: Nashville deserves more credit than it has gotten for last season, because it's pretty uncommon for a serialized show like this to stabilize after it's started declining. It seems this show is just giving the core audience what it wants. And if CBS is even weaker in the hour this year, it can pull it off again. It's down just 8% to a 1.23.

Worst Case: Last year's relatively small drop was all about the timeslot getting easier. That kind of timeslot improvement isn't coming this time, as it'll be tough for Black-ish to even hold serve at 9:30. So Nashville gets back on the season two trend (-21%), plus a little extra slippage due to Black-ish weakening. It's down nearly 30% to a 0.95, and breaking a 1.0 is a struggle down the stretch. Dunzo.

Likeliest: I'm surprised Nashville was able to pull off a -9% last year, even with Black-ish being as successful as it was. But it's just a real long shot that a serialized show can pull that off again. The timeslot is stable enough that I don't think it'll drop quite as much as Revenge did in the second half of its run, but I'm giving it -21% to 1.06, and guessing that's gonna be low enough to get it cancelled.

2.32 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
138 2.35 Wednesday 9:00
y2y:-6% +5%

Timeslot OccupantsSurvivor Fall The Mentalist Survivor Spring
Avg Orig Avg
2.03 2.11 2.35 2.39 1.34 1.45 2.29 2.52

In a Nutshell: CBS' former megahit has settled into incredible groove of consistent A18-49+ over the last eight years or so, and each of the past three seasons has dropped less than league average.

Best Case: Survivor has had great trends in recent seasons. The closest thing to Survivor in broadcast primetime is Big Brother, and it keeps growing. It's also got no unscripted competition with Hell's Kitchen moving out of the way on Fox. So why pick against Survivor? It has yet another "smallest drop in years" season, going -1% to a 2.30.

Worst Case: Survivor has had some very high-rated seasons with returning players, but this comeback in the last couple years has been mostly built on seasons with all-new casts. At this point, returnees are just gimmickry to the Survivor audience, and there's a surprising level of rejection for this season. Down 18% to a 1.90.

Likeliest: I don't see the returnee cast being much of a needle-mover, but I also don't see any of Survivor's competition hurting it much. And I wouldn't dare pick against this already healthy show after the great summer that unscripted programming has had. Down 6% to a 2.18, matching the year-to-year trend from last fall.

Law and Order: SVU
1.63 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
97 1.83 Wednesday 10:00
y2y:-9% +2%

Timeslot OccupantsLaw and Order: SVU
Avg Orig Avg
1.43 1.58 1.60 1.81

In a Nutshell: At the center of a tri-drama lineup that NBC branded "Woman Crush Wednesday," season 16 of the oldest active primetime drama pulled off a third consecutive season trending better than the league average. This was the second-strongest SVU season since its move to Wednesday six years ago.

Best Case: I can't come up with any reason why SVU would be up in Plus other than the fact that it's done it the last three years. So, why not? It comes up with some more big crossovers and some big flashy story that brings back the audience, especially in the second half of the season when Empire is fading or off the air. Down 5% to a 1.55.

Worst Case: Its lead-in The Mysteries of Laura is gonna be a massive disaster. At least half the season's gonna go up against Empire, which probably shares a good bit of audience with SVU... and the show had some pretty bad points late last season even after Empire was gone. Its 1.2 low point from early May becomes commonplace through the fall, and it might even dip lower late in the season. Down 31% to a 1.13.

Likeliest: I may go to my grave proclaiming this is finally the year SVU will be down more than the league average, but here we go again. The bottom line is there are gonna be some ugly year-to-year comparisons early on, vs. last fall when SVU was running up big numbers against Red Band Society. It'll probably trend a little better in the second half of the season, but it'll still be a noticeable drop overall. -16% to a 1.37.

Coming next week: Black-ish, The Mysteries of Laura, Rosewood, Empire!

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