Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Renewology Swings of the Week: Timeless, MacGyver, Son of Zorn, Quantico and more!

This is the first edition of Renewology's "Swings of the Week," looking at which shows this week had the biggest change in R%. How much did this week's ratings matter? This is our attempt at quantifying it. I will try to put this out every Tuesday going forward, though a lot of times I may not do much in the way of accompanying analysis.

Just over a month into the new season is an appropriate time to start following this, as the Renewology model starts becoming less ridiculously volatile. In the first three weeks, it treats every data point as if that's the only information we have about the show. Sometimes it has reacted too strongly for my taste, but I would argue things should be volatile in the opening weeks because the true strength of the shows is still very much in flux.

But in week four and beyond, when most shows are pretty close to "settled" on a True basis, the R% is based on an aggregation of multiple data points. Here's a concrete example, and I'll use raw numbers just to make it easier. If Blindspot drops from 1.3 to 1.1, a lot of people tend to think, "Well, it's a 1.1 show now" and assume that results in a huge drop in its chances. But since it was the show's fifth episode, Renewology combines both the 1.1 and the previous 1.3, and says, "It's a 1.2 show now." Maybe accounting for only half of the week-to-week drop is an under-reaction. But there's a fairly rich history of one-off stinkers, and there is probably some value in "fading" big, sudden declines in a lot of cases. Whether Blindspot is one of those cases remains to be seen!

Here we go! These numbers cover Week 5 of the 2016-17 season (October 17 thru October 23).

Biggest R% Gainers:

Madam Secretary1.10.01.09+0.0651%+14%
Bob's Burgers1.4+0.21.36+0.2697%+11%
No Tomorrow0.3+0.10.22+0.0215%+10%
Legends of Tomorrow0.7+0.10.64+0.1099%+9%
American Housewife1.7-0.21.62-0.0390%+8%

Timeless: This is one of those shows whose "oddity" is probably more about the True formula than the Renewology process. The Voice's lead-out only gets nicked by a little over two tenths in True because there are bonuses that go along with being a 10/9c show, plus having relatively solid competition by 10/9c standards from Scorpion and Monday Night Football. And it may just be that in a 10/9c slot with a lead-in this big, it shouldn't get the bonuses that most 10:00 shows do.

Anyway, the first three snapshots showed two different shows. Weeks one (1.8) and three (1.5) suggested a series that headed for "second-half-of-Blindspot-season-one" territory, which is still something NBC could renew. And week two (1.4) suggested something a good bit weaker than that. Last night's 1.4 (maybe 1.3 after finals) was probably closer to the week two snapshot. The R% swing won't be as big since it's aggregating multiple points now, but if it puts up that kind of showing again next week, expect it to fall back behind the bubble.

MacGyver: The frequent Renewology punching bag finally went back above the bubble with its third consecutive 1.1 in week five. This is not so much a "steady-where-it's-supposed-to-be-down" situation, but more a place where the True formula is actually perceiving it to get a bit stronger. That 1.1 in week three came on a pretty high-viewed night by Friday standards, and overall viewing has come back down quite a bit in the last two Fridays. It's still not out of the woods, but the formula is definitely catching up with how well it's doing.

No Tomorrow: In week two, No Tomorrow broke the Rosewood record for largest week-to-week swing in R%, going all the way from 50% to 5%. This week, it eked out a 0.3 and went back up to a slightly-less-ridiculous 15%. Still, the formula is definitely saying that this is too weak even to be saved by the CBS Studios connection. Should it somehow pull through, we may have to weigh the studio factor even more heavily next year.

American Housewife: A textbook example of how your prospects can improve even with a drop in week two. However, it was actually a pretty minimal drop in True, as it benefited from its surrounding programs taking even steeper declines. 

Biggest R% Decliners:

Son of Zorn1.0-0.50.75-0.1237%-28%
The Real O'Neals0.9-0.30.94-0.1546%-14%
Agents of SHIELD0.7-0.20.94-0.0969%-7%
The Last Man on Earth0.9-0.20.90-0.0766%-6%
2 Broke Girls1.5-0.21.29-0.1853%-5%

Son of Zorn: I've said a few times that the True formula can do some weird things on Sundays, where overall viewing is sky-high and it's often difficult to precisely pin down how the NFL overruns are working. But I still think it's pretty clear that the last two weeks have not been that kind to Son of Zorn. It retained just half of The Simpsons' huge Treehouse rating, then fell to a new low this time. Giving it a 0.75 True for last Sunday's 1.0 rating is probably too harsh... perhaps The Walking Dead pre-tune inflated the PUT more than we can account for. But I don't really disagree with the ultimate conclusion, which is scoring it toward the low end of the bubble right now (and a weaker show than The Last Man on Earth, which has to face Dead head-to-head).

The Real O'Neals: There were some pretty big drops in week two of the ABC Tuesday comedy lineup, but the show that could least afford it was 9:30 comedy The Real O'Neals. We now have it right below the renewal bubble. If something is getting replaced in the eight slots across the Tuesday/Wednesday comedy nights, it would certainly seem O'Neals is at the front of the line right now.

Quantico / Agents of SHIELD:When going over the Renewology oddities a couple weeks ago, I forgot about Quantico, which may be the oddest of them all. It's sort of the anti-MacGyver, in that it has a lot of True formula factors conspiring in its favor; it gets a bonus for being on Sunday, a bonus for being at 10:00, plus it has a bad lead-in and football competition. Adding this all together, the True formula posits that it has one of the very toughest timeslots on TV. Even at a 0.7 rating, the formula still finds both Quantico and Agents of SHIELD to be renewal favorites, though they're dropping fast. I think there's a chance one gets the axe, but at this point I wouldn't bet on both. If the ABC drama picture looks bleak now, is there much hope of it looking better by season's end?

Superstore: Long lauded as NBC's first real comedy success in ages, could Superstore suddenly be in actual peril? It had just a 1.0 demo last week, with The Big Bang Theory competition on the way later this week. I thought TBBT would hurt, but my instinct (or wishful thinking?) now says last week's stinker was a bit of an exaggeration, and maybe it can hold that 1.0 now and look better given the new competition. We'll see...

Blindspot: After its aforementioned drop from 1.3 to 1.1 a couple weeks ago, Blindspot's R% took a relatively small decline... then declined again as it rebounded to 1.2 last week. This is another one of those debate pre-tune situations, where the True formula has generally been pretty harsh; Blindspot was actually down a couple hundredths in True despite the raw growth. For the most part, I think that it has been correct to be harsh (though the degree of harshness may not be exactly right). We saw shows like Kevin Can Wait and Once Upon a Time have up nights that really turned out to be blips. So now that all the 1.3's are out of the rolling average, Renewology is becoming more uncertain.

What is a Black-Background R%?

One final note about an addition to the Renewology tables: we now use a black background for Renewology points that occur after a show's fate has been decided. You can see this with The Vampire Diaries and Bob's Burgers and it'll return on Tuesday with NCIS. This is meant to denote that these numbers are not "predictions," because there's nothing left to predict, but I still like displaying what the actual ratings would be saying if the fate weren't decided.

In the SpotVault, where each weekly prediction is listed, you should be able to see these numbers turn black at the first point after a decision is made. (The idea is that the last colored point is the last actual "prediction" for record-keeping purposes.) All the current decisions (Bob's Burgers, NCIS and The Vampire Diaries) were pre-ordained before the season premieres, so there's not an actual example of this at the moment.

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