You've already seen the fall schedules for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC and made all your judgy judgments on a network-by-network basis, but once you slap them all together, that's a whole new beast. Networks don't just try to fit everything together in a way that works for them, they have their rivals to think about, and the wrong move—one that, say, puts Happy Endings up against New Girl, for example—can result in ratings disaster. Below, we've assembled a day-by-look at the overall schedule for fall 2013 to compare what goes against what, and made a few predictions with regard to how things will shake out.
Sure, there are plenty of new shows here, but structurally, Monday nights in the fall of 2013 will be very similar to what they were in the fall of 2012, which makes for some very boring analysis. NBC will win Mondays again thanks to The Voice, no doubt about that. And CBS's comedies are so interchangeable that viewers might not even notice there are any new ones in the network's Monday lineup, with the exception of the single-camera and laugh-track-free We Are Men; there shouldn't be much change there, either. Everyone knows Dancing With the Stars is dying, especially ABC, so the show has been cut down to one night a week—and it will probably continue to slide, assuming the cast is just another bunch of low-rent "celebrities." The real wild card here is Fox, which has its best-looking Monday entry in a long time (LOL @ Alcatraz and Terra Nova) in Almost Human. However, it seems like Fox is betting way too heavily on the ridiculous-sounding Sleepy Hollow, and if the Ichabod Crane drama can't support the first half of the fall, it may kill the network's Mondays before Almost Human even airs. And sorry Beasties, but The CW is giving up on Mondays, matching up two shows that are both bound to suffer before being unceremoniously canceled by the end of the year. The 10pm hour is an interesting one: ABC's established darling Castle goes head-to-head against prized new dramas at CBS and NBC (Hostages and The Blacklist respectively). My guess is that The Voice lead-in should work well for The Blacklist initially with NBC touting its next HUGE hit, but by December, the audience will already be fleeing. Meanwhile, Castle will hold steady, and Hostages will perform okay but ultimately not good enough to be CBS's next big series.
This is where things gets interesting. ABC is ALL NEW, CBS has culled together a '61 Yankees-style murderers row, NBC still has The Voice, and even The CW is giving the night a serious run. But let's be honest: CBS will win big. Its trio represents television's top three dramas, viewership-wise. It's odd that ABC would post its most prized new possession Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. against the number-one show in the universe (NCIS still rakes in 20-plus million viewers a week), but what do I know, I'm just a guy with common sense. I also have an issue with ABC not learning its lesson with 9pm comedies, though at least S.H.I.E.L.D. should be a decent lead-in for them. And though I want Lucky 7 to succeed, doesn't sound like another high-concept ABC drama that fails? I appreciate ABC's all-new gamble, but I think it will backfire. Don't even get me started on the horrible-looking Dads, which will put Fox in an awkward position of canceling a Seth MacFarlane show very early. The multi-camera awfulness of Dads won't do any favors for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which should've been paired with the demographically similar Enlisted. Basically, the 8pm hour looks like a disaster for Fox; like anyone is going to watch half of a drama on one of the other networks (because NO one is watching Dads) and then tune into Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Normally, The CW is impervious to the rest of the schedule, but surely S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Originals will share some viewers, which could spell doom for the young Vampire Diaries spinoff. And though we're not supposed to talk about cable here, one has to guess that FX's Sons of Anarchy could have an effect in the 10pm hour. This is the night your DVR has trained for.
After the wealth of television on Tuesday, Wednesdays get decidedly boring (personal opinion, of course). In fact, there's not much difference from 2012. NBC moving Revolution to Wednesdays at 8pm is basically the death blow for the series. Remember, Revolution sucked off the teet of The Voice in Season 1, and its ratings dropped precipitously after its midseason break. If it makes it to a third season, it will say more about the state of NBC than the show itself. Every other network should remain steady for the night, with the exception of NBC at 10pm. How many episodes are we giving Ironside, starring Blair Underwood as a wheelchair-bound detective... six? Wednesdays are someone's for the taking, but The Voice logjam on Mondays and Tuesdays will keep Fox from moving The X Factor and programming something better here, CBS is too busy keeping its boot on the others on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and ABC is struggling to find comedies to work around Modern Family.
What in the world is NBC doing? Or rather, how could CBS be so cruel? No matter how you slice it, NBC has marched Parks and Recreation right out in front of the firing squad, and the nerds from The Big Bang Theory are holding the guns. NBC knew Big Bang was going to be at 8pm, yet it put veteran Parks there anyway in its attempt to make good on its "broad comedy" promise. It's too late for NBC to salvage Thursdays, though. CBS was really sneaky here, expanding its own VERY broad comedy block to two hours and squatting over NBC's long-lived "must-see TV" block. Thursday, 2013... the day NBC died. What's interesting about the night's comedy offerings is that, regardless of whether you're a multi-cam fan or a single-cam snob, you can watch four of each format in a row by switching channels at 9pm and then back again at 9:30pm. ABC finally has a formidable Thursday night again thanks to Scandal, which is ON FIRE and is probably doing more for Grey's Anatomy than Grey's Anatomy is doing for Scandal. 8pm is still a question mark for ABC, but Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a better show for that hour than last year's excellent-but-misplaced Last Resort. Fox is just Fox, and it'll be better off when it stops kowtowing to Simon Cowell. It's time for some of those limited-run event series, Fox! Once again, very little CW discussion here, except to wonder out loud whether Wonderland will impact The Vampire Diaries.
Friday is almost nothing but garbage; CBS and NBC are the only networks really making an effort (with Fox picking it up in late fall), the former because it has way too many shows and its audience doesn't go out on Fridays anyway, and the latter going for a genre night. I thought NBC might reward Grimm with a promotion, but keeping it on Fridays makes sense, and it could even thrive without similar competition. Dracula following Grimm works for me, too, but I thought Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as the famous fanged one would earn a better time slot. I don't think Raising Hope or Enlisted are long for Fridays; one or both could get bumped up to replace Dads before their scheduled late-fall debuts. And who woulda figured Fridays were good for reality television? There are four hours of reality here, plus two hours of news-y programming. At least give stay-at-homers a reason to think they're going out with some more exciting shows here. Kids cooking while Gordon Ramsay makes 'em cry? Whaaaaaat?
Homeland!!! But for those of you without Showtime, it's more of the same. In fact, except for one new show, ABC's Betrayal, it's exactly the same. NBC will continue to dominate with football, and the other networks are smart enough to know there's no sense in competing against that, so they're going after the non-football crowd. ABC stays feminine and plugs in the soapy Betrayal, a better fit than 666 Park Avenue was. CBS spends the evening appealing to a different kind of competitor, then to strong women and drama snobs, then to housewives who like Simon Baker's smile. And Fox has aired The Simpsons on Sundays for longer than this year's college graduates have been alive. NBC's smartest move may be how it's planning to stack Sundays in the midseason once football ends, with J.J. Abrams' Believe and conspiracy thriller Crisis looking to hold the male audience come the spring.
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