May 02, 2005

TV: playing network programmer (ABC edition)

We're coming up on that week when all of the TV networks announce their fall schedules, and over the next week or so, I'm going to do a little guessing about what we might see from each network. Obviously, I don't know much about what new programs they might have in the works, but I can at least look at holes that need to be filled and speculate on the type of thing we might see.

Let's start with ABC. Their current schedule looks like this (there are a few holes this time of year, where shows have flopped, that are filled in on an ad hoc basis with movies, specials, reruns, and the like).

7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 Desperate Housewives
10:00 Grey's Anatomy
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: How'd They Do That?
9:00 The Bachelor
10:00 Supernanny
8:00 My Wife & Kids
8:30 George Lopez
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Rodney
10:00 Blind Justice
8:00 Lost
9:00 Alias
10:00 Eyes
10:00 Prime Time Live
8:00 8 Simple Rules
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 20/20
8:00 The Wonderful World of Disney

On the whole, ABC's in good shape. They're in third place, but it's not an embarassing third. Their new dramas this year have done extraordinarily well, and they're only one or two shows away from competing for the top spot. There is some danger lurking: Dangerous Housewives and Lost both run the risk of being the next Twin Peaks, brilliantly dangling their mysteries for a season, then falling apart in year two.

Monday's shows are all essentially filler, and all will probably disappear, at least for the football season (ABC's last year of Monday Night Football). The Bachelor could survive, but it really does seem to have run its course; How'd They Do That and Supernanny, along with the currently-on-hiatus Wife Swap, probably won't be on the fall schedule, but could easily pop up to fill holes if new shows aren't as successful as hoped.

It seems safe to assume that Rodney won't be back, and I'd be surprised if either Blind Justice or My Wife & Kids returned.

Shows that seem to be on the so-called "bubble:" Eyes, 8 Simple Rules, Less Than Perfect.

Boston Legal is on hiatus, but has been renewed for next season, which brings us to the first problem for ABC's execs: Where to put that show? Grey's Anatomy is doing better on Sunday nights than BL had done, and I don't expect ABC to move Grey's out of that time slot.

I think Legal would pair nicely with Eyes (which has been a bit of a disappointment in the post-Alias slot, but which I think deserves a chance to build an audience) and I'd try that combination from 9-11 on Tuesdays, bumping Jim and George back to the 8-9 hour.

Wednesday needs a new drama that's compatible with Lost and Alias, both J.J. Abrams creations; maybe turn the whole night over to Abrams, and fill the 10 pm slot with the grandpa-grandson private eyes show he's reportedly been working on?

Thursday's a hard night to make any ground on. NBC's shows are slowly sinking, but still strong, and the Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice will likely attract curious viewers who'd given up on the Trump version; CBS dominates the night, and doesn't show any sign of weakness yet. There's not much humor in that 10 pm slot, though, between ER and Without a Trace; maybe this is a place to try Eyes or Boston Legal.

ABC seems determined to keep Friday night a sitcom zone, and I'd expect either Rules or Perfect (but probably not both) to survive along with Hope & Faith, with a pair of new comedies in the 8:30 and 9:30 slots. (If My Wife & Kids does survive, then I'd move one of the three Tuesday comedies to Friday, which means that Rules and Perfect might both be expendable.)

The networks have essentially given up on Saturday nights, and it will probably remain a dumping ground for movies, specials, and reruns.

So, to summarize:

I think Eyes will survive and Blind Justice won't; of My Wife, Rules, and Less Than, at least one dies, probably two. Four hours of new programming: a pair of Friday night sitcoms, a Wednesday 10pm drama, and two hours of something to fill up Thursday; given the current state of the sitcom, probably two hour-long shows.

Tomorrow, we'll look at CBS.

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