Looking for the Next Big Thing

Apr 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

It only takes one.
With the broadcast network race tighter than ever, one hit show is all it takes to turn a network’s picture from sour to sunny overnight. One need look no further than Fox, which struggled in the fall and is now only a tenth of a ratings point away from NBC in the season race for the adults 18 to 49 crown, thanks to a little show called “American Idol.”
NBC’s dominance of Thursday night is another example. Critics were sounding the death knell two months ago because ratings for some of the network’s sitcoms were softening. The debut of “The Apprentice” hushed all that.
The broadcast networks have evaluated their weaknesses, made their choices and are currently shooting pilots, hoping that one of them will be the next big hit to inject life into a lineup and propel it to the top of the rankings. As it stands, NBC is looking over its shoulder as it holds on to its narrow season-to-date lead in adults 18 to 49. The network is averaging a 4.2/12, just ahead of Fox’s 4.1/11, and CBS’s 4.0/11.
Series on the bubble have just a few more weeks to prove they are worthy to make next season’s schedules, which will be unveiled to advertisers during upfront presentations in May. Some of the bubble shows’ fates depend less on their performance than on how well a network’s development turns out. The better the development, the lower a bubble show’s chance of getting another shot. Here is a network-by-network guide to the status of prime-time programming.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 3.4/9 (down 15 percent year to year, ranked No. 4)
Total viewers STD: 9.4 million (down 10 percent, ranked No. 4)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “Monday Night Football” (6.6/18), “The Bachelor” (6.4/16), “The Bachelorette” (5.2/13), “According to Jim” (4.3/11), “8 Simple Rules” (4.2/12)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.1/10)
Highest priority: ABC has to find a hit drama. The network has had the worst track record with dramas among the Big 4 networks and most likely won’t renew a single freshman drama. With “NYPD Blue” headed into its last season and “Alias” the network’s only other drama generating ratings, ABC is hoping its strategy this year of developing character-driven, female-skewing dramas will draw viewers who currently tune in to the network’s comedy blocks and “Bachelor” franchise.
Renewed: “NYPD Blue” will return for its 12th and final season.
Likely to Return: With Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday comedy blocks a lock to return and ABC execs’ desire to expand to a 12-comedy schedule, expect “8 Simple Rules,” “According to Jim,” “Less Than Perfect,” “My Wife and Kids,” “George Lopez,” “Hope & Faith,” “Life With Bonnie,” “It’s All Relative” and “I’m With Her” to return.
Drama “Alias” and reality shows “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Extreme Makeover” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” are shoo-ins to return. “Wonderful World of Disney” has helped grow Saturday night’s teen numbers by 16 percent, and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is a utility player to fill a blank.
Sayonara: “The Practice” closes its doors after eight seasons. “Karen Sisco” has been canceled.
Unlikely to return: “10-8,” “Threat Matrix,” “L.A. Dragnet,” “Line of Fire”
Bubble: “Married to the Kellys” is the lowest-rated sitcom in ABC’s “TGIF” comedy block with a 2.5/8 among adults 18 to 49 and 6.8 million viewers and went on hiatus to make room for the midseason debut of sitcom “The Big House” April 2.
Midseason entry “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” may be averaging a respectable 4.0/11 and 9.8 million viewers in four airings, but that was boosted by a stellar premiere, from which the series has faded fast. ABC demoted “Hospital” to Thursday nights last week. “The D.A.” (2.0/6 in adults 18 to 49 and 6.8 million viewers) has finished last in its Friday 10 p.m. time slot, well below the 3.2/10 adults 18 to 49 number that “20/20” has pulled in that time slot this year.
2004-05 commitments: Series commitment to a spinoff of “The Practice,” starring James Spader and Rhona Mitra; eight hours of limited series “Empire.”
Summer plans: Look for reality shows “The Benefactor,” “The Swap” and “Deal or No Deal” as well as a scripted series from ABC’s partnership with ad buying agency MindShare.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 4.0/11 (up 3 percent year to year, ranked No. 3)
Total viewers STD: 13.4 million (up 6 percent, ranked No. 1)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “CSI” (9.3/22), “Survivor: All-Stars” (8.6/22), “Survivor: Pearl Islands” (7.7/21), “CSI: Miami” (6.2/15), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (5.8/14)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “Two and a Half Men” (5.2/12)
Highest priority: With only five solid comedies on the air, CBS needs to develop more comedies to keep its Monday night block strong, especially with “Everybody Loves Raymond” most likely heading into its last season. “King of Queens” proved it could anchor Wednesday nights in a difficult time slot, earning a 4.1/10 average among adults 18 to 49 and 11.7 million viewers, but it needs a worthy companion to hold on to that audience.
Renewed: Freshman dramas “Joan of Arcadia,” “Navy NCIS” and “Cold Case” and sitcom “Two and a Half Men” have been solid additions to CBS’s schedule, earning pickups in January. The ninth and 10th editions of “Survivor” were also picked up.
Likely to return: “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “CSI Miami,” “Judging Amy,” “King of Queens,” “CSI,” “Without a Trace,” “JAG,” “Yes, Dear” “Still Standing,” “CBS Sunday Night Movie”
Sayonara: Freshman dramas “Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” and “The Handler” were canceled, as was sitcom “Becker.” Midseason drama “Century City” got the ax after airing only three episodes in its regular Tuesday time slot. “Century City” averaged 7.9 million viewers, about 2.5 million viewers less than regular time slot occupant “The Guardian,” and a 2.0/5 in adults 18 to 49.
On the bubble: With few drama holes to fill and “CSI: New York” a lock for the fall schedule, “The Guardian”-which performs decently with 10.5 million viewers and a 2.5/6 in adults 18 to 49-ends up on the hot seat. Saturday night dramas “Hack” (8.3 million viewers and a 1.6/5 in adults 18 to 49) and “The District” (9.2 million and 1.9/6) could also lose their slots if CBS’s drama development is strong.
Unlikely to return: Midseason sitcom “The Stones” has underperformed. Two episodes of “The Stones” haven’t held on to as much of “King of Queens'” lead-in as previous time occupant “Becker” did. “Stones” is averaging 8.1 million viewers and a 3.2/8 compared with “Becker’s” 10.3 million and 3.1/8.
2004-05 commitments: CBS has picked up a third edition of “CSI”: “CSI: New York.”
Summer plans: Reality shows “Big Brother 5” and “The Amazing Race 5” will return. Mike Fleiss’ reality show “The Will” is also slated for summer.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 4.1/11 (down 2 percent year to year, ranked No. 2)
Total viewers STD: 9.9 million (flat year to year, ranked No. 3)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “American Idol” (11.6/30), “American Idol” (10.8/28), “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” (7.9/18), “The Simple Life” (5.8/16), “The Simpsons” (5.2/13)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance”
Highest priority: While Fox is nipping at NBC’s 18 to 49 heels, Fox has to show more consistency in its schedule, especially among its scripted series. “Idol” has lifted Fox 3 percent in adults 18 to 49 on Tuesday nights this year and 15 percent on Wednesday nights, but those gains are erased by awful Friday night ratings (down 16 percent year to year) and a hit-or-miss Monday night lineup (down 22 percent) that over-relies on new reality shows such as “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance,” to be hits, rather than duds like “Joe Millionaire 2.”
Renewed: “That ’70s Show,” “The Simple Life 2,” “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill”
Likely to return: “The O.C.,” “24,” “Cops,” “America’s Most Wanted,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The Bernie Mac Show” are all solid performers. The unstoppable “American Idol” is a sure bet to return, although a deal for year
four still has to be hammered out. “Arrested Development” is averaging only a 2.8/6 in adults 18 to 49 and 6.3 million viewers but has shown an uptick the past two weeks, pulling a 3.0 and 3.7 in adults 18 to 49. Plus, Fox execs have been effusive in their support of this critically acclaimed show.
Sayonara: “Boston Public,” “Skin,” “A Minute With Stan Hooper,” “Wanda at Large” and “Luis”
Unlikely to return: Midseason sitcom “Cracking Up” started with a bang, thanks to an “American Idol” lead-in, but in its two airings in its regular Monday time slot, it is averaging a 2.2/6 among adults 18 to 49. The prognosis is also bleak for “Oliver Beene” (2.4/7), which Fox pulled from its Sunday lineup.
On the bubble: Stuck in a killer Thursday time slot, “Tru Calling” is averaging a 1.8/5 in adults 18 to 49 and 4.5 million total viewers. However, as the one consistent piece of Fox’s Thursday lineup this year, it has helped Fox improve its adults 18 to 49 ratings on Thursday nights by 4 percent and its female teen ratings by 32 percent. Midseason drama “Wonderfalls” has averaged a 1.6/5 among adults 18 to 49 and 3.8 million in three Friday night airings with the incompatible lead-in “Playing It Straight.” Fox moved the show to Thursday last week, and if it is able to hold on to “Tru’s” audience, it will have a good shot to return.
2004-05 commitments: Fox has ordered 13 episodes of new dramas “The Jury” and “North Shore,” sitcom “Method & Red” and picked up reality shows “The Casino” and “The Complex: Malibu.”
Summer plans: Fox will start its new season in June with launches of “The Jury,” “North Shore,” “Method & Red” and “The Casino.” Dramas “Ricochet,” “Hollywood Division” and “The Deerings” and sitcoms “Lucky Us,” “Quintuplets” and “Related by Family” will also be ready for starts later in the summer if they are ordered to series. Reality show “The Complex” will also be ready for a summer start.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 4.2/12 (down 7 percent year to year, ranked No. 1)
Total viewers STD: 10.9 million (down 7 percent, ranked No. 2)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “The Apprentice” (9.5/23), “Friends” (9.3/26), “ER” (8.7/23), “Will & Grace” (7.5/19) and “Average Joe” (6.4/16)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “The Apprentice”
Top priority: Find hit sitcoms to replace “Friends” and “Frasier.” “The Apprentice” may have bought NBC some time, but NBC still needs to develop the next crop of hit sitcoms, such as those that have become synonymous with “Must-See TV.” NBC has an hour and a half of Tuesday nights to fill in time slots typically reserved for sitcoms. “Scrubs” and “Law & Order: SVU” perform well on the night, but NBC needs to find shows that can open the night.
Renewed: The top-rated new drama in adults 18 to 49, “Las Vegas,” will be back, as will sophomore series “American Dreams” and the reinvigorated “Crossing Jordan.” “Fear Factor” also has another year of life in it, and “The Apprentice” was picked up for second and third editions.
Likely to return: “The West Wing,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Scrubs,” “Will & Grace” and “ER”
Sayonara: “Frasier” and “Friends” are retiring. “Coupling” and “The Lyon’s Den” were busts, and critically acclaimed “Boomtown” got only two episodes to prove itself before getting the ax.
Unlikely to return: NBC has made it clear that it would take a miracle for “Ed” to return. Banished to Saturday nights after a Tuesday run, sitcom “Tracy Morgan” is the lowest-rated sitcom on NBC’s schedule, averaging a 2.2/7 in adults 18 to 49. “Miss Match” is currently homeless on the network’s schedule, having underperformed on Friday nights with a 2.5/8 in adults 18 to 49. NBC pulled “Good Morning, Miami,” which was averaging a 3.7/9 in the demo after seven episodes, off the schedule in December and it hasn’t been heard from since.
Bubble: “Third Watch” moved from Mondays to Fridays and helped NBC regain its dominance on that night, winning its 10 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49. It has averaged a 3.3/10 in the demo. The question is will that be good enough? “Whoopi” (2.7/8) and “Happy Family” (2.9/7) were bounced around in different Tuesday time slots and had to face Fox’s juggernaut “American Idol,” but one of the two could survive, depending on how strong NBC’s comedy development is this year.
2004-05 commitments: NBC ordered 13 episodes of “Friends” spinoff “Joey” and of CGI-animated half-hour “Father of the Pride.” Reality show “The Contender” got a 16-episode commitment, and “Average Joe” spinoff “Plain Jane” was also picked up. Limited series “Revelations” is also a lock for next year.
Summer plans: NBCwill air four reality showsincluding returning series “For Love or Money” (June 7), “Last Comic Standing” (June 8), “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” (June 14) and new entry “Next Action Star” (June 15). Sitcom holdover from last fall “Come to Papa”will debut June 3. In August NBC will air the Summer Olympics, followed immediately by the rollout of its new fall season.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 1.5/4 (flat year to year, tied for No. 5)
Total viewers STD: 3.5 million (down 2 percent, ranked No. 6)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “America’s Next Top Model” (3.0/7), “WWE SmackDown!” (2.0/5), “Girlfriends” (1.7/4), “Eve” (1.6/4), “Half & Half” (1.6/4)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “Eve”
Highest priority: Wednesday night. UPN is down 27 percent among adults 18 to 49 and 17 percent among the network’s target demo of adults 18 to 34 on Wednesday nights. “Enterprise’s” ratings have slid, and freshman drama “Jake 2.0” died a quick death, leaving a rotation of repeats filling one hour of the night. UPN has proven it can deliver comedies that appeal to its young, urban audience but has yet to find a drama that clicks.
Renewed: “America’s Next Top Model” was renewed for a third and fourth edition after delivering record ratings for UPN and turning Tuesday nights around. Tuesdays are up 14 percent among adults 18 to 49 and up 29 percent among total viewers. “WWE SmackDown!” consistently finishes Thursdays in third or fourth place in adults 18 to 49 and is a big male demo draw.
Likely to return: Monday night sitcoms “Eve,” “Girlfriends” and “Half & Half” have kept UPN’s Monday block a steady performer, while Monday transplant “One on One” and freshman sitcom “All of Us” successfully launched UPN’s all-new Tuesday night this season.
Sayonara: “The Parkers” ends its five-year run this year. “Jake 2.0” and “The Mullets” couldn’t even manage to average a 1 rating in adults 18 to 49.
Unlikely to return: Midseason CGI-animated sitcom “Game Over” was dead on arrival, averaging a 0.6/2 among adults 18 to 49 in four airings.
Bubble: “Rock Me Baby” averaged a 1.1/3 before it gave up its time slot to “America’s Next Top Model.” However, it returned to the schedule last week with back-to-back episodes averaging a 1.0/3 among adults 18 to 49, despite heavy promotion during “Top Model.” “Enterprise” is averaging a 1.4/4 but has seen its audience erode this season and may not fit in with the network’s young, multicultural direction. UPN’s Friday night movie averages an anemic 0.9/3 but is a cheap solution, considering the network has bigger priorities.
Summer plans: UPN has numerous reality series in development, including a Missy Elliott project and “The Player” but has yet to firm up summer plans.
Adults 18 to 49 STD: 1.5/4 (down 17 percent year to year, tied for No. 5)
Total viewers STD: 3.7 million (down 11 percent, ranked No. 5)
Top 5 shows among adults 18 to 49: “Smallville” (2.2/6), “7th Heaven” (2.0/5), “Charmed” (2.0/5), “Angel” (1.9/5) and “Surreal Life” (1.8/4)
Highest-rated freshman show among adults 18 to 49: “One Tree Hill” (1.3/3)
Highest priority: Rediscover its winning drama formula that made The WB the first stop for 12- to 34-year-olds. While The WB has always struggled with sitcoms, it could always count on adding one or two solid water-cooler dramas per year. This year, the network struck out with “Tarzan,” and “Fearless” was killed before the season even be
gan. “One Tree Hill” has grown in young female demos since its lackluster debut, but it hasn’t been enough to repair a Tuesday night that is down 44 percent in adults 18 to 49 over last year, when “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” made a formidable block. The WB also needs to replace aging hits such as “Charmed” and “7th Heaven.”
Renewed: Stalwarts “Charmed” and “7th Heaven” will be back for their seventh and ninth seasons, respectively. “Gilmore Girls” returns for its fifth season.
Likely to return: “Everwood,” “Smallville,” “Reba,” “One Tree Hill,” “What I Like About You” and “Grounded for Life”
Sayonara: “Angel” ends its run after five seasons, despite being the fourth-highest-rated show on the network in adults 18 to 49. “Tarzan” has been canceled.
Unlikely to return: Interchangeable comedies “Like Family” (1.1/3 among adults 18 to 49), “All About the Andersons” (1.1/3) and “Run of the House” (0.7/2) have not been able to hold on to the audience with which “Reba” opens Friday nights.
Bubble: “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” (1.2/3 among adults 18 to 49) and “JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” (1.1/3) have been steady despite having the unenviable task of holding down Thursdays, television’s most difficult night. Both could return as series or specials. While midseason sitcom “The Help’s” ratings aren’t better than those for the rest of The WB’s comedies, with a 1.1/3 among adults 18 to 49 it has held almost 100 percent of its lead-in’s audience in three airings and still has a chance to prove itself in three more scheduled airings.
2004-05 commitments: Eight episodes of “Blue Collar TV” and “High School Reunion 3”
Summer plans: The WB plans to air new drama “Summerland,” “Pepsi Smash” and game shows “Studio 7,” from Michael Davies, and “Make My Day.” “Blue Collar TV” may also debut in the summer.