PHEW! Are you out of breath? I'm out of breath. The brutal marathon known as the Upfronts are finally over, and all the broadcast networks have released their scheduled for the 2014-2015 season. Proof: Here's NBC's, Fox's, ABC's, CBS's, and The CW's. While it's fun (oh so fun!) to scrutinize these schedules on their own, things start to look a whole lot different when you slap 'em all together on one big battlefield. After all, networks aren't just looking at their lineups like a puzzle whose pieces only cover their own shows; they have to pay attention to what their rivals are doing, too. One wrong move and your hot new comedy is going head-to-head with a really similar show on another network *ahem* NBC's Marry Me and Fox's New Girl *ahem* and that could mean you're hosed. So I've gone ahead and done the slapping-together of schedules together for you, and I'll do my best to analyze each day to determine which shows are in good shape and which ones are in trouble.
Sunday nights in the first half of the season will still belong to NBC and Sunday Night Football because this is America, dammit, and if something involves overgrown hulks throwing, catching, and tackling, we will watch it. But NBC's competitors will all be running different plays than they did last fall.
ABC is sticking with its recent Sunday-night formula, with midseason entry Resurrection sandwiched between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, two dramas that most football fans don't even know exist. There's more football avoidance over on CBS, where Sunday promises an evening full of powerful women with new drama Madam Secretary, starring Tea Leoni as a female Secretary of State, and the Julianna Margulies-fronted The Good Wife. CSI steps up as a utility player to take CBS's 10pm spot, so expect the procedural's viewership to drop a bit as the East Coast watches fourth-quarter football instead of Ted Danson chasing bad guys.
The wildcard here is Fox, which is mixing animated and live-action (and single-camera and multi-camera) comedies in a dangerous two-hour experiment. This will be an important season for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as the cop comedy heads into its sophomore year with a Golden Globe win and critical acclaim in its holsters, and a large chunk of its audience will be watching football instead of listening to Andy Samberg crack jokes in his underpants. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the Sunday series that stands to lose the most, and as an 8:30pm show, it could be swallowed by football on both coasts.
More tunnel vision from Fox here, as the network clearly scheduled Gotham—easily its most anticipated series—without considering what other networks would do. The minute that CBS won Thursday Night Football, speculation began that The Big Bang Theory would move back to Mondays, and NBC wasn't going to budge The Voice. So hey, Gotham at 8pm puts it up against the two biggest ratings hogs in all of network television that aren't football-related! It's like Gotham is Batman's parents and The Voice and Big Bang are those dudes in the alley. Thank heaven for DVRs. Sleepy Hollow should fare a little better at 9pm, where CBS newbie Scorpion hopes that some of the Big Bang audience will stick around through Mom.
Elsewhere, CBS is making a run at The Blacklist by moving NCIS: Los Angeles and its 14 million (mostly older) viewers to Mondays at 10pm (where Hostages bombed and held our patience hostage in fall 2013), but there's no reason to think that The Blacklist will suffer too badly. Meanwhile, ABC is Dancing like a few people are watching, just not as many as last season, and The CW testing The Originals, which recently beat Glee in the ratings, on Monday. I'm assuming Jane the Virgin will get F'd.
Tuesday's got a nice spread at 8pm, with something on the buffet for everyone! Are you looking for some female-skewing comedy? Check out ABC's (probably underperforming) new sitcoms! Want to hear some singing? NBC is your channel! Need a flag-waving procedural to fill your patriotic heart? Bam! CBS! Craving a crappy reality show? Fox is your guy! How about a sexy new superhero? He's on The CW! Ultimately, this is a two-show race between NCIS and The Voice while everyone else fights for scraps. One cautiously optimistic possible outcome: The Flash could actually benefit from serving as a warm-up to S.H.I.E.L.D. even though they're on different networks.
Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was always meant to be a 9pm show, and moving Coulson and his crew away from The Voice and NCIS could help it out a lot—which at this point means holding steady in the ratings. There'll be a comedy battle at 9pm between Fox's combo of New Girl and The Mindy Project and NBC's pairing of new series Marry Me and returning series About a Boy, and with The Voice giving Marry Me a boost and New Girl slipping fast, I think Marry Me could be a solid performer for NBC. That would be sweet revenge for creator David Caspe and star Casey Wilson, whose last show, ABC's Happy Endings, was the recipient of bad scheduling in this very same time period and finished last in a three-way comedy fight with New Girl and a Voice-boosted Go On.
In the 10pm hour, Person of Interest and Chicago Fire rule, as whatever ABC throws out (this year it's the snoozy Forever) is almost certainly a goner. And don't forget about FX's Sons of Anarchy causing some havoc by pulling viewers over to cable.
Wednesday appears to be the most open night of the week; Modern Family appears to be the only big bully. There's lots of reliable planning here from ABC and CBS, with each network gobbling up very different audiences that are built around old favorites. Want to laugh and spend time with your family? ABC! Want to see people get senselessly and violently murdered? CBS!
Meanwhile, with Revolution gone for good, sci-fi fans are left with just Arrow and The 100, so humpday should be The CW best night. And as I'm going through Fox's schedule compared to everyone else's, it looks like Fox is going to get its ass kicked this season. Red Band Society might turn out to be a decent show, but it's gonna get killed without a strong lead-in, and Gordon Ramsay screaming at people is not a strong lead-in for a dramedy about kids in a hospital. And Debra Messing, star of The Mysteries of Laura, isn't going to save NBC here.
Wednesdays will be a two-network race between ABC and CBS, with NBC and Fox getting trounced and The CW gaining on its bigger brothers.
FOOTBALLLLLLLL! Thursday is getting blown up by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Richard Sherman, and the starting lineup for Thursdays in 2014-2015 represents the biggest change to the primetime schedule since television went color. Even though CBS will only air seven games to start the season (plus one more in December), expect to see lasting effects on everyone else.
All new shows need to get off to a good start, and with football guaranteed to dominate, look for short outings from Bad Judge and A to Z; they might even be the first shows to get the axe in the fall. Fox will run Gracepoint through to the end even if it does poorly (which it will), since it's a limited series. And I'm curious to see whether ABC viewers will end up feeling over-Shonda'd by the network's trio of Shonda Rhimes soaps, but ABC thinks it will work.
When CBS's comedies return on October 30, life will get slightly better for everyone else, but as long as The Big Bang Theory exists, Thursdays will still be tough. This is going to be one heavily DVR'd night, so please be courteous and keep your Scandal spoilers to yourself.
To me, the big shock here is that NBC is putting Constantine on Fridays at 10pm. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, as NBC seems hellbent on making Friday nights a sci-fi/fantasy night with the always reliable Grimm leading the way, but I thought Constantine was a higher-profile show than a Dracula replacement. NBC could have gone with a Wednesday slot for the comic adaptation, but it wouldn't've fit in at 8pm (where Revolution died in 2013-2014) because who fights demons from hell at 8pm in the middle of the week? And Chicago P.D. isn't moving from its 10pm slot, so I guess Fridays at 10pm were all NBC had left. Someone needs to add a day to the calendar to fit in all this television (just make sure it's a weekend day)!
Elsewhere, CBS gets stronger on Fridays with the addition of The Amazing Race, which should perform just fine here. Fox once again looks like it's in trouble with a reality-show duo. MasterChef Junior is actually good, but Utopia, which will air a second new episode on Fridays, sounds horrible. If you only have 12 hours to program each week, why would you devote a sixth of them to an adult version of Kid Nation?
Finally, it's my duty to remind you that Blue Bloods is one of TV's top five shows in total viewers. Yep. That's good news for Hawaii Five-0, which will be a perfect transition between The Amazing Race and Blue Bloods, with its colorful island shots and cops.
Upfronts 2014 HQ:
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