Broadcast Schedule Could Look Wholly Different by Midseason

Nov 2, 2008  •  Post A Comment

January could be the new September in TV land.
After a ho-hum autumn filled with fewer fall launches than usual, networks are gearing up for a blizzard of midseason programming changes. And unlike past seasons, the schedule shuffles aren’t just about filling holes caused by fall failures.
“There will be a lot more shows on [in midseason] because of the strike,” said one network programmer, referring to the after-effects of the writers’ work stoppage that are still working their way through the broadcast bloodstream.
While none of the networks has yet announced firm 2009 lineups, ABC should be home to many of the changes. That’s because the network opted to forgo adding a full load of fall freshmen so as not to rush any post-strike projects on to the air, leaving plenty of options for schedulers come January.
Instead, in late August, ABC picked up three dramas and two comedies that it will be able to schedule during midseason if it so chooses. Among the high-profile contenders: A remake of the 1990s dramedy “Cupid”; cop shows “Castle” and “The Unusuals”; a comedy starring “Who’s the Boss?” veteran Alyssa Milano; and the network’s first foray into animation in a long time, the Mike Judge-created “The Goode Family.”
The network also has a reality competition series from Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks that could bow in the winter or spring, along with the Arnold Shapiro-produced docudrama “Border Security.” “Scrubs” relocates from NBC. And one of the network’s big drama tentpoles, “Lost,” returns for its penultimate season.
Finding room for so much new product won’t be tough. “Boston Legal” wraps up later this season, opening up an hour on Mondays. And while no decisions have been made regarding the fate of young series “Life on Mars” and “Pushing Daisies,” ABC almost certainly will rest both shows for a few weeks to test out other programs in the 10 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Wednesday time slots.
“Dancing With the Stars” also disappears for a few months, giving ABC room to experiment with new shows on Monday and Tuesday nights.
The only network that will make more changes in January is Fox, which kicks into high gear each winter with the return of “American Idol” and “24.”
As always, the biggest question mark is whether Fox will keep “Idol” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or roll the dice on a Wednesday-Thursday play. The latter scenario would be a risky move given the tight ad economy.
Look for Fox to continue to support newcomer “Fringe” with an appropriate lead-in, most likely “House” or “Idol.” And the network has several drama contenders on its bench, including action drama “Lie to Me,” the Joss Whedon-produced “Dollhouse” and the not-yet-greenlit “Glee.”
The network will add new comedy fare to its Sunday animation block, and reality guru Mike Darnell can always be counted on for a surprise. He’s currently set to unveil his take on the variety format with a new show featuring the Osbournes.
Over at NBC, there are plenty of holes and several contenders. The network has already begun changing its schedule, this week bringing back “Law & Order” and moving shows around on Wednesday and Friday nights.
The most buzzed-about new hour at NBC is “Kings,” a sort of “West Wing”-style take on the King David story. It might be a natural fit on Thursdays, should the network decide to rest “ER,” or on Mondays, if “My Own Worst Enemy” doesn’t work out.
Also in development is the action-adventure “The Philanthropist,” though given its numerous production changes, it’s unclear when it will be ready for air. NBC also has the imported drama “Merlin” on deck.
On the unscripted front, NBC has already said it will debut the Ryan Seacrest-produced dating show “Momma’s Boys” in December. It also has the food-themed “Chopping Block” ready to go.
Reliable drama performer “Medium” also stands ready to get back in the game. And “Friday Night Lights” is slated to get a window on NBC after its originals air first on DirecTV.
NBC’s midseason scheduling question marks include all of Sunday night (football ends its regular season next month); Mondays at 10, where “My Own Worst Enemy” hasn’t proven overly viewer-friendly; Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., where “My Name Is Earl” and “Kath and Kim” are struggling; and all of Friday night.
Like all the networks but Fox, NBC will have to launch its new shows while avoiding being crushed by “Idol.”
The same is true for The CW, which has had an OK fall but almost certainly will get battered by Fox’s young-adult juggernaut.
The good news is “90210,” “Gossip Girl,” “One Tree Hill” and “America’s Next Top Model” are doing fine. Look for a decision soon on the fate of newcomer “Privileged.”
Tougher calls for the network include whether to continue letting its block of Friday night comedies wither on the night. It seems logical that the comedies could move back to Sunday, given the dreadful performance of the MRC-funded block of programming there now.
The CW also has to find room for a midseason run of “Reaper” and the reality show “13: Fear Is Real.”
The network likely to make the fewest midseason changes: CBS, which has sprinted out to a first-place standing in the fall.
On CBS’ bench are the new thriller “Harper’s Island,” returning comedy “Rules of Engagement,” returning drama “Flashpoint” and game show “Million Dollar Password.” The Mark Burnett-produced reality show “Jingles” also has wrapped production and will be available to CBS if it wants it.
The network’s biggest hole right now is Fridays at 9, where “The Ex List” struck out. “Flashpoint” would seem a good fit there, though “Password” could work as well.
CBS might tweak its Monday comedy block, giving “Gary Unmarried” a chance on the night, given its nice performance on the night last week during a test run at 9:30.
Changes also could be in the works Thursdays at 10, with “Eleventh Hour” doing OK but hardly inspiring numbers in the time slot. “Flashpoint” would fit well there as well, leaving room for “Harper’s Island” on Fridays.


  1. The Ex List struck out……. What a huge surprise…… [/sarcasm]
    Kind of makes you wonder why CBS cancelled the extremely romantic, people’s choice winner, Moonlight in favor of the dopey loser Ex List.
    The cancellation of Moonlight still ranks as the worst decision by any network in history…..
    Frankly, it makes me wonder why they aren’t trying to bring it back.

  2. Actually, ABC owns two of the worst programming decisions by any network in history.
    1) Cancelling the adored, sorely missed but low-rated “My So-Called Life” in 1995 — granted, that show has thrived as a cult favorite since it’s criminally premature demise with no benefit of a new timeslot. It was scheduled opposite “Friends”.
    2) Moving “The Practice” from his solid Sunday night slot to the ucertain and ill-advised Monday night with two new programs as lead-ins.

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