Monday, October 1, 2018

Renewology: The Premiere Week Rundown

Happy October! Here are some observations about a selection of shows that have aired in the first five days of the TV season. If you're looking for some more reading about Renewology, here's my update from Friday on what has changed in the model this year.

ABC Newbies
A Million Little Things68%1.090.760.66128%32%
Single Parents59%1.090.770.72134%37%

Renewology is a bit harsher with ABC this year, but if the formula was gonna put The Mayor and Kevin (Probably) Saves the World as very narrow underdogs on premiere night last year, it was probably gonna be higher with these two shows, which did a tenth better in raw numbers a year later. ABC appears to have so little going for it drama-wise that I'm comfortable enough calling AMLT a renewal favorite right now, but it's definitely in a zone where above-average post-premiere drops could sink it fast. The ABC drama department average might actually end up getting a little inflated as the fall progresses, since the network is airing so few of them.

ABC Returnees
American Housewife75%0.960.840.72135%40%
How to Get Away with Murder39%0.680.610.66135%25%

American Housewife is a good illustration of the formula being harsher this year than last year; last year, Speechless with a 1.4 after a 1.8 Goldbergs was 86% on Premiere Wednesday. That same point would be more like 70% using the formula this year. Anyway, this wasn't an amazing showing, but I don't expect the third-year Housewife to have any trouble getting renewed; ABC has had such a mediocre premiere week that it may benefit in R% from ABC's targets going down.

The same sort of applies with How to Get Away with Murder, with the added caveat that Murder probably gets less of a boost from a huge Grey's Anatomy lead-in than the formula says it does. After all, Premiere Thursday after Grey's was the lowest point for Murder in True last year. I think it goes up from here in R%, but I doubt it is going to be the no-brainer that the formula ultimately decided it was a year ago.

CBS Newbies
Magnum P.I.52%0.930.700.70118%48%
Murphy Brown46%0.930.750.77119%38%

There's no doubt in my mind that FBI had a better premiere night than Magnum, P.I., but was it really better enough to justify 85% vs. 52%? The 85% is exactly where SEAL Team started last year, and that show went on to not hold up very well but remain a modest renewal favorite. Magnum P.I. had a poor showing, but I wouldn't be that surprised to see it hold up better than expected in the post-premiere weeks; there's some history with shows like Scorpion and Person of Interest that have looked only OK after a huge comedy lead-in but then held up nicely when that lead-in was much reduced going forward.

The Murphy Brown revival looked barely better than your typical Life in Pieces episode on premiere night. That seems like a pretty bad place to be, since most of these revivals have fallen a lot post-premiere, but is it really going to follow that track and become another Me, Myself and I or Living Biblically-level flop? We shall see. The good news is that Murphy may get some help from the CBS comedy department continuing to flounder; the CBS comedy average is going to look horrible year-to-year with the Sheldon shows getting compared against their enormous results from a year ago.

CBS Returnees

Ah yes, another year of Renewology's long-standing beef with MacGyver. I'm pretty sure I've said these things before, but MacGyver is in the unique position of having a lot of anti-"conventional wisdom" quirks lining up against it; the True formula does not put a huge premium on airing on Friday, and it does put a reasonably large penalty on airing at 8:00. Last year, MacGyver opened on the bubble before pulling into safer territory, but that will be a bigger ask this year; the formula now has been adjusted so that CBS returnee dramas are not really expected to drop post-premiere.

OK, so it's down on MacGyver, but should it be so down on MacGyver that it is on equal footing with freaking S.W.A.T.?! It feels like this could be a reprise of the MacGyver vs. Scorpion debate from a year ago; over the summer I had the apparently hot take that they were of equal strength and got a lot of pushback. My argument really rests in the delayed viewing numbers; last year, MacGyver actually had a slight advantage in Live+SD, but Scorpion (despite having what many would call the easier timeslot) was about three tenths higher than Mac in Live+7! It wouldn't be too shocking to see a similar dynamic with S.W.A.T.; that show frequently crossed 100% in L+7 gains in the second half of last season, while MacGyver was usually around 50%.

Unfortunately for my side of the argument, it's clear Mac has the huge advantage from a non-ratings perspective. MacGyver is owned by CBS and in its third season; S.W.A.T. is not owned by CBS and in its second. MacGyver should be much safer than its ratings indicate, while S.W.A.T. will be under a lot more pressure to "earn its keep."

NBC Newbies
New Amsterdam88%1.531.080.73128%32%
I Feel Bad27%0.810.570.68224%39%

There does not seem to be a ton of renew/cancel intrigue in what we've seen of the NBC newbie crop so far. I would take the under on the new dramas, just because Manifest is the kind of show that we've seen fall apart many times before, and New Amsterdam is in the same timeslot after a huge This Is Us premiere where Law and Order True Crime fell 30% in week two last year. But I would have a hard time saying they shouldn't be in dark green territory after these starts.

We should wait till we see a Thursday rating for I Feel Bad; after all, The Good Place looked a lot better on Thursday than it did in the America's Got Talent preview last year. But I pretty much agree with Renewology that there was not any promise offered up from the preview. If it can really turn it around into renewal territory, that would be a surprise.

The Fox Favorites
Last Man Standing90%1.731.220.78129%
The Cool Kids66%1.260.890.78128%

As I said on Friday, the big question mark with Fox is not so much the shows' relative ratings strength, but rather what Fox's targets should be. How much scripted programming will actually stick around in 2019-20 on "New Fox"? Renewology's expectation is that Fox will be harsher than pretty much any big four network ever, but that may still not be nearly harsh enough. Wherever you want to set that bar, it is going to be difficult for shows that performed like Last Man Standing and Star did this week to be considered underdogs in a model that is this dependent on ratings. I won't blame you if you take the under on Star no matter where it falls, because it seemed to have real trouble securing a renewal even last year.

The Fox Bubble
The Resident56%0.960.850.82129%33%
The Gifted47%0.900.800.82145%50%
Lethal Weapon34%0.850.740.82130%44%

Renewology may be harsh for Fox, but that harshness is not (yet) resulting in a bunch of huge renewal underdogs because Fox actually had a damn good week. I saw some people pound on the Tuesday lineup, but they still got 0.9 and 0.8 compared with a 0.7 for Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Premiere Tuesday a year ago. If we expected Fox to be as weak as last year and to act like a normal broadcast network, those shows should be renewal favorites based on their premieres. Since we expect they will not act like a normal broadcast network, they are underdogs. And the network's strong performance will go into the targets for Week 2, which could drive these shows lower even if they stick to their ratings projections.

The Gifted was a particularly interesting one, since it had seemed to be fading late last season and did well to get back to a 0.9 this week. Is there actually a path to renewal here? It was the malest-skewing entertainment show on the first four days of the broadcast season (the only one with a M18-49 rating that was at least as high as its W18-49). It also had the third-lowest median age; only Empire and Star were lower. It's gonna be tough, but as I said in the Premiere Tuesday post, it did not put itself out of the running just yet, and even that is an achievement.

Rel is at 49% basically because the True formula is limited in its ability to fully factor out the NFL lead-in. Based on its rather dire DVR interest (it went from 1.90 same day to 2.07 after seven days........), I am not liking its chances to stay close to that going forward.

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