Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: June 18, 2005 at 4:00 AM
USA, BRAVO, SCI FI CHANNEL, TRIO, CNBC, MSNBC, MYRIAD WORLDWIDE CHANNELS
Just like I didn't much care about Disney's cable channels, I don't care much about Universal's. Okay, I really don't care about the news channels, as 101% of US news is a joke, and I have no clue how Trio is doing, since I sure haven't ever seen it, so I would assume "not so good." But USA, Bravo and Sci Fi are three of the strongest cable channels out there. USA has been strong forever; Sci Fi has been up, down and is now back up; and Bravo has finally found a voice. Yeah, so there's still way too much West Wing on it, but hits Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Project Runway have the channel surfing a reality wave, a strategy which has done well for other cable channels like VH1 and MTV. And the international channels are all over Europe, thanks to Universal's Vivendi past, and certainly do well in an area with fewer channels. And then there are the Latin American channels, which certainly do well also. These channels are in 27 different countries, so they must be somewhat popular.
Okay, I already covered much of this in the Disney column, so I decided to come up with a more mathematical way of predicting the Fall seasons for the Big Four networks. Trying to guess where a show will end up is a ridiculous folly, but saying a show will do well or won't do well isn't really much of a prediction. For the most part, potential Top 20 shows get 2 points, Top 40 shows get 1, Top 60 get 0, and everything below that gets a -1.
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC) VS 60 Minutes (CBS) VS Dateline (NBC) VS King of the Hill (FOX)
Nostradumbass: CBS will continue to be the killer in this slot, still in the Top 20 after 437 centuries on the air! But cheapies on ABC and NBC make up for their lowly positions. Fox is trying to keep from killing King by moving it out of the deadly pre-empted-by-football 7pm slot. Late football in primetime (East Coast) evens out Fox's score.
CBS = +2... ABC/NBC/FOX = 0
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC) VS Cold Case (CBS) VS The West Wing (NBC) VS The Simpsons/The War at Home (FOX)
Nostradumbass: ABC should continue to win this slot, with Makeover remaining a Top 20 show. Unless people get tired of the fix-and-cry show (as they have with other such shows, like Extreme Makeover: Face Edition and The Swan in their sophomore seasons) and switch over to hot-on-its-heels Cold Case. Both should remain Top 20 shows, no matter which comes out on top, meaning the in-transition West Wing should drop. And don't hold out hope for the faltering Simpsons or for the promising War at Home, as Fox is apparently intent on killing both its oldest show and its newest. Well, it's not that bad as Homer and family at least finished in 50th.
ABC/CBS = +2... NBC/FOX = 0
9:00 Desperate Housewives (ABC) VS Sunday Night Movie (CBS) VS Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC) VS Family Guy/American Dad (FOX)
Nostradumbass: Another killer for ABC, even if Housewives has a bit of a sophomore slump. CI should continue to do well with the addition of Chris Noth for half its episodes, and CBS's movie will have ups and downs and end up averaging in the same league. An even stronger hour will hurt Fox even more here, and will further prove that DVD success doesn't equal ratings success in the case of Family Guy.
ABC = +2... CBS/NBC = +1... FOX = -1
10:00 Grey's Anatomy (ABC) VS More Sunday Night Movie (CBS) VS Crossing Jordan (NBC)
Nostradumbass: ABC's goofy medical "drama" will suffer more of a sophomore slump than its lead-in, but shouldn't drop all the way out of the Top 20. All three shows haven't changed positions from last year though, so expect the same results, all pretty good.
ABC = +2... CBS/NBC = +1
8:00 Wife Swap (ABC) VS The King of Queens/How I Met Your Mother (CBS) VS Fathom (NBC) VS Arrested Development/Kitchen Confidential (FOX)
Nostradumbass: Since football gets most of its ratings from the East Coast, this is a spot begging for a Top 20 show. If I had my way, it'd be Arrested but Fathom, one of many Lostalikes on the Fall schedule could fill the bill. If it overcomes early bad buzz. And if NBC reworks the pilot enough to not be so annoying. This could remain a black hole when - or if - House moves here in January. Otherwise, expect Wife Swap to lose viewers to CBS, where sitcoms are currently king, especially with the high-buzz prospect How I Met Your Mother. And Arrested with the interesting Kitchen, might actually pick up viewers.
CBS/NBC = +1 (for Fall only)... ABC/FOX = 0
9:00 Monday Night Football (ABC) VS Two and a Half Men/Out of Practice (CBS) VS Las Vegas (NBC) VS Prison Break (FOX)
Nostradumbass: Football will reign in its last season on ABC. Then expect everybody to throw their best shows on this night (like Fox and its House/24 combo in January). CBS already has its highest-rated comedy here, and people seem high on Practice. (People seem high, or at least above ground level, on EVERY new CBS show this year, which can only improve their network murder spree.) But don't necessarily expect Men to maintain its tie with the NFL without Raymond there to help out. Still there are so few sitcoms out there now, people may race to them. I'm torn on its ability to remain in the Top 20. Short-run series Prison Break is getting major buzz, has great commercials out now and I simply can't see it not drawing huge crowds. But four shows can't all do well in one slot. Last Fall, Fox fell apart during this slot, but once 24 showed up, ABC died with The Bachelor replacing football. I'm predicting Prison Break to, umm, break out, meaning Las Vegas will suffer. Not horribly, as some will leave the CBS comedy block without Raymond to love. This could be the rare timeslot with three Top 20 shows, though.
ABC/CBS/FOX = +2... NBC = 0
10:00 More Football... on East Coast only (ABC) VS CSI: Miami (CBS) VS Medium (NBC)
Nostradumbass: Notice how I said "This could be the RARE timeslot with three Top 20 shows..." and not "the ONLY"??? Well, guess what happened in this timeslot last year. CSI: Miami finished in 7th, MNF in 11th and Medium in 20th. Of course, with two Apprentices, two Survivors and two American Idols filling slots above Medium, and with Raymond vacating its high position, the show is actually about a Top 15 show. Of course, much of its run was during rerun season between February and May sweeps, so a drop out of the Top 20 is not out of the question. But, with such a strong night of television, I think people will be willing to stay up.
ABC/CBS/NBC = +2
8:00 According to Jim/Rodney (ABC) VS NCIS (CBS) VS The Biggest Loser (NBC) VS Bones (FOX)
Nostradumbass: This is a difficult spot to predict as none of these shows are really setting the world on fire. NCIS usually finds itself in the Top 20, somehow, so unless Bones turns into Fall's Big Thing, it shouldn't fall apart. The Fox show though is getting great buzz, and is led by cult-magnet David Boreanaz. It may be a little too CSI for some, but even if it doesn't catch on in Fall, it will move to a post-Idol slot, where it will probably leap House-style to a lofty ratings position. The Biggest Loser was a big hit for NBC last Fall, but "hit" is a relative term. NBC's Fall was so bad, that even 40th-place Loser seemed huge. Plus, it did get mucho media attention. Bonus points for it being quite a while since the last series, meaning people aren't sick of it yet, and the Men VS Women theme this year, and the show should improve. Which leaves the wretched ABC comedy block as the REAL big losers. Last year the two shows faced a scarier show in House and the decently performing Judging Amy, but this slot will be tougher as even if Bones doesn't take off, it will still outperform the NBC comedy block that ABC faced last year.
CBS = +2... NBC/FOX = +1... ABC = 0
9:00 Commander-in-Chief (ABC) VS The Amazing Race (CBS) VS My Name Is Earl/The Office (NBC) VS House (FOX)
Nostradumbass: Everyone is totally high on the Geena Davis-as-Prez show. Of course, those "everyones" aren't counted by Arbitron or Nielsen so naturally this show will bomb. We're talking recall, people. If the concept wasn't dumb enough, it is up against the hot-and-getting-hotter House, which should have no problem vaulting well into the Top 20 next year. The last Amazing Race landed in 25th, but that had a lot to do with the pukey Rahb and Ambuh. Still, the previous edition was 31st, which was an improvement over the ones before that. The Office did HORRIBLY, and much of its hope this year relies on Jason Lee's buzzed-about My Name is Earl but probably just as much on Steve Carell's 40-Year-Old Virgin film, which promises to be 2005's There's Something about Mary. I think that movie could make Carell BIG, making The Office at least middling.
FOX = +2... CBS = +1... NBC = 0... ABC = -1
10:00 Boston Legal (ABC) VS Close to Home (CBS) VS Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit (NBC)
Nostradumbass: What an interesting hour! L&O:SVU is now the star of the crime dynasty and Boston Legal did almost as well last year, but that was after Housewives. Plus, it is going up against ANOTHER lawyer show, with a woman at the helm. She's basically unknown but this is another Bruckheimer show, and it is believed to be one of the better prospects on the schedule. This one will need a great campaign (which, strangely enough, I just saw as I was typing this... think Judging Amy with a blonde wig... really... same commercial style too), so I think it has a tough road ahead, as SVU isn't going anywhere and David E Kelley usually takes at least three years before he makes his shows unbearable.
NBC = +2... ABC = +1... CBS = 0
8:00 George Lopez/Freddie (ABC) VS Still Standing/Yes, Dear (CBS) VS The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (NBC) VS That '70s Show/Stacked (FOX)
Nostradumbass: Martha Stewart in her first real project after prison? TOP TEN! And if you disagree, check out her competition. Lame sitcoms, lame sitcoms, lame sitcoms. If this show finished in 1st, I wouldn't be shocked. I'm not expecting it, just saying. The highest-performing show of this group last year was Still Standing at a whopping 46th, but amazingly, Stacked was only three places behind it. Still, its lead-in will fall apart without Topher and Ashton, which will definitely hurt Pamela Anderson's show (and how my heart bleeds for the talented cast stuck with her wooden line readings). Yes, Dear is a good followup for Standing as it kept most of that show's audience last year, and came in at 54th. Yeah, they both suck, but that's not what I am doing here. Meanwhile, ABC, who bragged so much during the upfronts that they had so few slots to fill, kept Lopez, which finished in 82nd. Way to go! If Fox wants to prove itself, it would promptly cancel their twosome here and move The Simpsons/Arrested Development to this uncompetitive slot before they kill both of their highest-quality shows.
NBC = +2... CBS = +1... ABC/FOX = -1
9:00 Lost (ABC) VS Criminal Minds (CBS) VS E-Ring (NBC) VS Head Cases (FOX)
Nostradumbass: A Top 20 show against three newbies? Sounds like an easy win for ABC, but remember what CBS did to the original L&O last season. Head Cases had better have a good campaign because it sounds awful. Plus, I don't think it can compete with another well-done Bruckheimer show (this one at NBC!) and another Bruckheimer-like crime show with a good cast. In a fight between these two, I give the edge to E-Ring for the Bruckheimer name and its sure-to-be-big lead-in. As if questions about those shows weren't enough, Lost raises many of its own: Can it survive those crappy lead-ins? Can it survive without answering many of the myriad questions it raises? Can it survive its crappy finale? Think it's going to be a snap? One poll I read had 28% of Lostees saying they were either abandoning the show or giving it a few episodes to get its crap together (which we know won't happen in a few episodes). A 28% drop would be devastating. That would compare to Season Two of The Apprentice, and the television media wouldn't shut up about its sophomore slump. It will fall, but I don't think it will fall that far this Fall. Top 20 should still be in its sights for the first half of the season, but watch out next year, when the Idol results show slips into this spot!
ABC = +2... CBS/NBC = +1... FOX = 0
10:00 Invasion (ABC) VS CSI: NY (CBS) VS Law & Order (NBC)
Nostradumbass: NBC's Top 20 show was forced out of the Top 20 by CBS's show, which eventually dropped out of the Top 10 position it held at the beginning of the season. And both shows have more problems ahead. Putting Detective Green in the hospital didn't help L&O's freefalling ratings a bit. The show has made some questionable casting decisions in the past (usually in the ADA role) but evidently none has been as boneheaded as replacing the outgoing - and beloved - Jerry Orbach with the untalented Dennis Farina, a well-known show-killer. Not that it really matters. NBC went after Universal just so it could own the L&O series, which made more than a billion dollars last year. These three shows last season made twice as much as ABC did all year! CSI: NY has supposedly been ordered to "lighten up" but the dark tone of the show is not its problem. It's that horrendous cast. Gary Sinise is fine, but he's no William Petersen or David Caruso. And don't get me started on Melina Kant-act-aredes! The rest of the cast is bland and lifeless and the weird undertones they have created between characters are simply lame. Since both shows have seen their peaks, the door should be open for ABC's Lost-alike, but don't expect miracles. Wednesday, which was one of the most competitive nights a couple years back, has turned into a dead zone. Even Eyes, a fun little hour, failed to make much of a dent against these problematic shows. I think Invasion will start off strong, then falter.
ABC/CBS/NBC = +1
8:00 Alias (ABC) VS Survivor (CBS) VS Joey/Will & Grace (NBC) VS The O.C (FOX)
Nostradumbass: ABC throws a monkey wrench into this hour by actually airing a show people might want to watch, as opposed to last year's Jake in Progress and that thing with the horny teenagers. The net might be seeing weakness in NBC, with the lackluster performance of Joey and the continuing implosion of Will & Grace. But Fox tried the same thing last year with The OC and saw their media darling lose 28% of its audience. Alias, a show that was never very popular until it aired after Lost, should certainly meet a similar fate without a popular lead-in. Plus, many fans who have been with Alias since its inception feel the finale jumped the shark, what with the zombies and a perfectly-timed out-of-the-blue car crash. Then again, I gave up on the retarded machinations of that show long ago, and I don't think even a car driven by JFK escaping time-traveling leprechauns in flying saucers would make the people that have stuck with it to change the channel. The show will probably lose a lot of the viewers they gained from Lost, but it should still fare better than The OC, which is simply too far along to gain new viewers. The big surprise here, I believe, will be the NBC comedy block. Joey started hitting its stride before all the lame romantic complications diluted the comedy during May Sweeps. The producers are looking for a name or two to join the cast (PLEASE lose friggin' Colby!), and picking the right name will help the show immensely. Will & Grace has been hammered by critic after critic for its guest-star-of-the-week laziness, and viewers agreed, as viewership dropped an amazing 35%. Expect fewer stars and an attempt to move back to the four core characters, which is extremely likely with the "reappearance" of Stan in the season finale. Still, the fighting between ABC and NBC is for second, as Survivor has dropped minimally over the years and remains a Top Five show.
CBS = +2... NBC = +1... ABC = 0... FOX = -1
9:00 The Night Stalker (ABC) VS CSI (CBS) VS The Apprentice (NBC) VS Reunion (FOX)
Nostradumbass: ABC's biggest buzz show for the Fall is Night Stalker, but it is going up against the biggest show on television and the still Top 20 Apprentice. Will there be enough left over? And what happens to the highly-anticipated high-concept Reunion? Even worse for these two interesting shows is the fact that both will probably have weak lead-ins. The OC will be much weaker than Alias, meaning Reunion is either headed for cancellation, movement, or hiatus until American Idol can help it out.
CBS/NBC = +2... ABC = 0... FOX = -1
10:00 Primetime Live (ABC) VS Without a Trace (CBS) VS ER (NBC)
Nostradumbass: Let's see... Last year Without a Trace was Top 10. ER was Top 20. Primetime Live eked out a position in the Top 90. No reason any of this should change this year.
CBS/NBC = +2... ABC = -1
8:00 Supernanny (ABC) VS Ghost Whisperer (CBS) VS Three Wishes (NBC) VS The Bernie Mac Show/Malcolm in the Middle (FOX)
Nostradumbass: The door is open for one of the two new shows to take over this slot, as Supernanny and the Fox comedy block sure aren't going to do so. Three Wishes, which will try desperately to get people to call the WAAAAHmbulance, is the frontrunner, no matter how high CBS is on their Jennifer Love Hewitt-starring Medium wannabe. Unlike other nights, though, Friday timeslots usually don't have enough room for two hits. If Three Wishes does become that hit, expect Hewitt to be this year's Alicia Silverstone. And expect this to be the final season for Bernie and Malcolm.
NBC = +1... CBS = 0... ABC/FOX = -1
9:00 Hope & Faith/Hot Properties (ABC) VS Threshold (CBS) VS Dateline (NBC) VS The Gate (FOX)
Nostradumbass: With little competition from ABC or NBC, first place is once again up for grabs. CBS is being lauded for almost every new show on the schedule, and Threshold is getting most of the attention. Yes, it's another drama riding in Lost's draft, but it's on CBS, the channel everyone is watching, so everyone will probably check it out. Quality will be the only thing from keeping this a hit. The Gate on the other hand, has no buzz. No good buzz. No bad buzz. That would normally be a bad thing, but I've already called this Law & Order: Really Deviant Crimes Unit, so the right commercials could easily boot this past the the weak hours on ABC and NBC.
CBS = +2... FOX = +1... NBC = 0... ABC = -1
10:00 20/20 (ABC) VS Numbers (CBS) VS Inconceivable (NBC)
Nostradumbass: Numbers, with that stoopid "3" in the middle of it, did fairly well, but exceptionally well for a Friday show. If Threshold takes off like it should, it can only help the CBS show that follows it. No one gives a damn about 20/20 anymore, especially with Diane Sawyer getting all the "gets" over on Primetime, which means Inconceivable should get the rest of the audience, which won't be much on a Friday night.
CBS = +1... NBC = 0... ABC = -1
The final tally: CBS = +26... NBC = +18... ABC = +8... FOX = +1. Which almost matches what I said on the ABC thread. I noted that Fox/ABC/NBC all ended the year in a virtual tie, and had Medium aired all season, instead of during the final half, NBC would've beat ABC. Both networks don't have too many major prospects, but NBC has a much better strategy this Fall, and no Jeff Zucker. Except for 106th-place The Office, the lowest-rated returning non-newsmagazine show is 43rd-place Joey. So really NBC renewed only one show it shouldn't have, and that's arguable as the show is critically-acclaimed. Meanwhile, ABC is bringing back 43rd-place According to Jim, 53rd-place Wife Swap, 57th-place Rodney, 57th-place Supernanny, 63rd-place Home Videos, 82nd-place George Lopez and 89th-place Hope & Faith. If you want to become the first-place network, shouldn't you be acting more like the current first-place network? CBS, which has made all other networks its bitches, has 54th-place Yes, Dear as its lowest-rated returning show. So why did ABC renew a bunch of low-performing shows and then brag about how few holes they have on their schedule? Well, Jim, Rodney, Hope and midseason returnee Less than Perfect (97th) are all "coincidentally" produced by Touchstone Television, meaning ABC is more interested in syndication profits than they are in improving the network itself. Why else would they already have TEN series scheduled for midseason? The other three have eleven (not counting Idol or 24) COMBINED. Remember NBC a few years back, when they kept slapping in-house productions into its Must See Thursday lineup? Remember how the media blasted them for it? I guess the media is too busy trying to pretend ABC is BACK to notice this. I guess we should all consider ourselves lucky that ABC actually bothered to cancel their other inhouse losers - 8 Simple Rules and My Wife and Kids. (The funniest thing about all this is that Touchstone created several of Fall's new shows, but gave away the most promising ones - Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer to CBS and Inconceivable to NBC - and kept the highly-questionable Commander-in-Chief for their sister company. HiLARious!
It seems ABC is the only one of the Big Four without a decent strategy. NBC clearly has a good strategy, having dumped almost all of their losers, has a decent Fall planned, and has two decent shows to fill in rough patches - Scrubs and hit show Fear Factor. CBS has a good strategy, not that they needed much of one. They shelved some middling shows that were skewing too old, and have an apparently strong Fall ahead of them. But Fox has the best strategy of them all. Sure the +1 I gave them doesn't seem so great, but if you discount the other three's 10pm hour, which Fox doesn't have, their scores drop to +20 for CBS, +11 for NBC and +4 for ABC. Then remember how bad Fox's Fall 2004 was - North Shore, The Complex: Malibu, Method & Red, Rebel Billionaire, Quintuplets, The Next Great Champ and The Jury - and you realize Fox has moved UP to a +1 from probably a -10! Considering they finished Number One in the coveted 18-49 demographic with THAT Fall, a +1 Fall should not only keep them in that spot next year, but should help them solidify the Number Two overall spot. (Three returning shows - 24, AI and Simple Life - add an easy six points without even adding in what other shows will benefit from an AI lead-in. Plus, Fox's three-season revolution is pure genius. Scheduling a short-run, one-season series like Prison Break before the nonstop seasons of 24 and AI is fantastic. ALL the networks should follow this plan, which has already shown benefits in twice-a-season hits Survivor, The Apprentice and America's Next Top Model. Just think how much better ABC would have done without having to run low-rated reruns of Desperate Housewives and Lost throughout March and April. The latter show is one show that is especially suffering from NOT having a nonstop season. If Prison Break proves to be a big hit, expect more limited-run series to air during the Fall, and more nonstop seasons during the Winter/Spring season, which could only be good for the future of network television. Two columns allegedly about ABC and NBC and all I can talk about is CBS and Fox. That's how out of whack television is right now.
That's Nostradumbass's two pennies... give him yours!