Tuesday, May 3, 2016

2016 Upfront Power Rankings: CBS


Welcome to the Upfront Power Rankings! This is the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging 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 Thursday, April 28.

Other Upfront Power Rankings: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW



Comedy

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Singular Sensation
1The Big Bang Theory3.61-1%31%45%3.51-14%8/22

All things considered The Big Bang Theory has had a really good season, mostly very close to even in Plus. With a show of this size, that's always a win. An interesting wrinkle in the new Thursday Night Football arrangement is that CBS will get back to Thursday programming a couple weeks earlier, in late October rather than early November. Could that dissuade CBS from continuing with the TBBT jerk-around? My guess is that it's not a big enough difference to stop it; TBBT handled it relatively well this year, and Supergirl wasn't huge enough to supplant it.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Second Tier
2Mom1.51+5%27%41%1.67-27%7/19
32 Broke Girls1.49-4%32%42%1.59-21%7/20
4Life in Pieces1.44+6%29%43%1.967/21
5Mike and Molly1.43-2%29%40%1.50-19%3/7
6The Odd Couple1.33-16%26%41%1.70-44%2/4

If I'd had the initiative to actually do these throughout the season, one interesting observation would be that there were a lot of CBS shows that essentially became different animals over the holiday break for some reason, and came back in 2016 with a whole new strength level. Life in Pieces was definitely one of those. Its 1.8's in the fall were frankly pathetic: certainly no better (considering the TBBT lead-in) than what we saw from Angel from Hell below. But starting with the 2.2 fall finale, it went on a long run of twos leading almost all the way to DST. Whatever you think the show's actual strength is, it would be hard to deny that it got stronger from the fall to the winter.

All that being said, Life in Pieces is still in a tricky situation. CBS doesn't own it, and it seems incompatible with the CBS multi-cams. That makes scheduling a second season potentially worrisome; it could definitely bomb starting off a new comedy hour somewhere else; it's happened even with more established shows. So it's a case where I'd say it "deserves" the season two, but I could understand the reasoning if it didn't happen. (Another note is that after years of trying to force the single-cam issue, CBS is surprisingly multi-cam heavy in development this year. However, both of their single-cams do seem to be listed among the top contenders.)

Then there's recently returned The Odd Couple, which I'm not viewing quite as positively. If its main argument is that it creates a better flow from Big Bang to the 9/8c comedies... well, that could be accomplished with another multi-cam, so why not try to get an actual strong one? Looking at just its own ratings, it's still a decent amount less impressive than most of Life in Pieces' late-season results. It's kind of a shame that LiP ended on a weak note for the finale because that was really the first time in months it had dipped into this Odd Couple territory True-wise. But that's the point that sticks with people. I could see Odd Couple coming back but I wouldn't upgrade it from this filler role. The lesson about flow is larger than this one show.

Only thing to say about Mom and 2 Broke Girls is that their ratings strengths really warrant fall timeslots. But that was the case last year and it didn't happen for 2BG, so...



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Dunzo
7Angel from Hell1.18+5%26%41%1.42/5



Drama

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Elites
1NCIS2.07-4%17%43%2.09-11%7/21
2Criminal Minds1.68+9%25%36%1.86-18%7/21

Another prominent member of the "became a different show" club was Criminal Minds, which had a really rough fall and then suddenly looked far stronger after the new year. There's an obvious explanation: the True formula simply wasn't accounting for how much Empire hurt it. But Minds has looked stronger compared with the fall even since Empire has been back. Late last season and early this season, this was looking like a clear candidate to shuffle off to 10/9c; now it's back in the clear #2 slot. (Though this average is inflated a bit by the Shemar Moore departure.) This is the CBS version of Last Man Standing: often held up by studio negotiations, but still a ratings slam-dunk.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Second Tier
3Blue Bloods1.45+6%15%42%1.26-4%7/20
4Scorpion1.45-6%23%47%1.57-23%8/24
5Supergirl1.45-8%28%50%1.407/20
6NCIS: New Orleans1.37+1%17%43%1.73-18%7/21
7Hawaii Five-01.31+3%16%41%1.10-10%7/21

Not much to say with this bunch. They should all be back and on the fall schedule, maybe the late fall if bumped by Big Bang/football. Supergirl obviously lost a lot of strength compared with its early weeks, but the vast majority of that slippage happened within the first month. I think it was only a tiny bit weaker in the late spring compared with the mid to late fall results; much of the raw numbers drop was simply due to increased timeslot difficulty with DST and The Voice returning. It's also really young-skewing and male-skewing for a CBS drama. So if it actually gets the axe, I'd have to think it would be an exorbitant costs thing or something.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Bubble
8Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders1.27+1%23%37%1.333/8
9Code Black1.21+7%22%38%1.236/18
10NCIS: Los Angeles1.19-5%19%43%1.24-19%8/23
11Limitless1.15-18%24%47%1.148/22
12CSI: Cyber1.07-3%19%41%0.97-34%6/18

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has probably done enough to be back, but the margin isn't really that big. Maybe I will feel a bit better about it when it holds these numbers against Chicago PD, whose lengthy hiatus has made this a very competition-light timeslot for over a month. It's likely a little stronger than CSI: Cyber was at this time last year, but it's not really feeling like a schedule tentpole in the making. So if renewed, it'll probably be on the same kind of track where it's highly dependent on international/syndication money, and we need more than just the first-run numbers to know its real value.

I think of NCIS: Los Angeles as a second-tier show but it grades out surprisingly far below the other ones. This was another show that seemed to get a lot stronger in the winter, but it's really petered out again in the spring. (Last night's finale is not included, which may help the average a bit.) It gets dinged for being on a higher-viewed night, and maybe the competition is not properly accounted for; the big change in the spring was the return of Castle and Blindspot, which both took lengthy winter hiatuses in favor of unscripted alternatives. Both those shows should be vacating the hour next year, so maybe LA could take advantage of more favorable competition again. But this still seems like the most likely mover of the already renewed dramas. Might be a candidate for Thursday 10/9c, as we thought it was last year. Or could the tri-NCIS Tuesday come together?

So that leaves us with the race between Code Black and Limitless, an interesting study of demographics vs. momentum. Perhaps more than any other, Limitless became a different show in 2016... but this time, not in a good way. To open the year, it only gained a tenth week-to-week after a huge episode of NCIS: New Orleans... and it promptly fell alongside New Orleans from there, never really approaching its 2015 True level again. On the other hand, Code Black heated up around the new year alongside its Minds lead-in. It might have been more interesting if it had continued that momentum down the stretch, but it kinda lost some steam in the last few eps.

The argument for Limitless is that it should get a lot more credit due to incompatibility with the NCIS twins. It's taken an ultra-old-skewing lead-in and skewed seven points younger and four points more male, essentially matching the skews of Scorpion (with which many thought it should've been paired last year). Meanwhile, Code Black has taken one of the relatively younger CBS drama lead-ins and skewed a few points older.



With the emergence of Beyond Borders, I'm not positive they need either one. And I wouldn't like either getting a fall nod if it means leaving 2 Broke Girls off again. But if one and only one survives, I think I'd take Limitless in a tight race and see if something could happen in a friendlier situation. Code Black fading a bit in the last few weeks makes it easier.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Dunzo/Exiled
13Elementary0.97-12%22%44%0.86-25%8/22
14Madam Secretary0.97-9%15%43%1.06-16%7/21
15Rush Hour0.96+2%26%45%0.952/5
16The Good Wife0.89-17%16%40%0.97-15%7/20

Seems like a good bet that Madam Secretary and Elementary will continue to soak up Sunday real estate for next season. But will CBS give something else a look at the inflated 60 Minutes lead-in during the fall? Madam doesn't have much hope of being a demo powerhouse at this point, but it's hard to beat the demographic flow with 60 Minutes.



Unscripted

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
1Survivor Spring2.09-1%28%40%1.98-12%4/11
2Survivor Fall1.95-8%30%41%2.01-9%5/14
3The Amazing Race Spring1.43+7%24%41%1.03-10%3/9
4Undercover Boss1.39+9%23%45%1.30-11%3/8
560 Minutes1.25-2%20%55%1.20-2%10/28
6The Amazing Race Fall1.23-12%24%42%1.02-5%4/12
748 Hours1.05-6%22%39%0.80+1%9/26

It is worth noting that Undercover Boss was missing from the CBS early renewal announcement. Its ratings are still more than worthy of its winter filler role, but it's always had trouble churning out large numbers of episodes (a similar issue to what holds Beyond the Tank back). Maybe that will catch up to it here.

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