TV.com's Network Power Rankings, Late-March 2013: Great Shows Push FX to the Top

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Hello again, good people. Welcome back to TV.com's Network Power Rankings, or as you may refer to them at home, "the most influential power rankings on the internet." If you're new to the proceedings or just need a refresher on my unbelievably complex theorem, here's how they work: Using a complicated methodology including ratings (Nielsen overnights, DVR numbers), business matters (pilot orders, scheduling, personnel decisions), buzz (social media, "viral" moments, other goodwill), and quality (good shows, episodes), I evaluate the performance of an ever-changing variety of networks based on the past two weeks. Also: Because there've been a number of comments about it over the last few entries, let me emphasize that a network only gets "credit" for a show if it airs during the period I'm analyzing  So if you think AMC deserves drops for Breaking Bad I agree with you, but you won't see me saying so here until the show actually returns to the air. 

And now let's get to it. Last time, History took the top spot thanks to big ratings (and decent buzz) for The Bible and Vikings, with AMC and ABC right behind. Unsurprisingly, there's been some movement over the past few weeks.



1. FX (previous rank: 6)

Although I consider a number of different elements when compiling the power rankings, it's hard for me to deny the allure of great shows. And a handful of great shows have bumped FX to the top of the rankings for the very first time. The Americans is the best new show to hit the air since Homeland, with its character depth and multitudinous and complex performances from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Like so many great dramas, The Americans produces great individual episodes, but it's the culmination of the season's stories that's impressed me the most so far. The arcs are thrilling and emotional and still believable, despite the show's high-concept premise. If you're not watching the show, please start. It's already renewed for Season 2, so don't worry about cancellation. And despite some middling ratings, the show is doing well on social media platforms like GetGlue.

But it's not just The Americans. FX is bringing the heat with another quality season of Justified—no matter your feelings on how long it took to get to the Drew Thompson reveal, Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins have been wonderful  as usual this year—in addition to the ever-funny Archer and freshman comedy Legit, a show that I haven't seen too much of but many critics and folks on Twitter seem to enjoy. Those core four shows are impressive.

FX is garnering some buzz as well. The news that Academy Award winner Ang Lee will direct The Tyrant, a pilot from Homeland's Howard Gordon and Six Feet Under's Craig Wright, immediately rocketed that pilot to the top of my most-anticipated list. Finally, the Kathy Bates casting, witch premise, and New Orleans setting of American Horror Story's third season has me a little giddy for another wild ride. Ryan Murphy, I cannot quit you.



2. CBS (previous rank: 4)

We can usually expect CBS (which, in the name of full disclosure, owns the parent company of TV.com) to continue to garner high nightly ratings, and over the last two weeks, the Eyeball has done just that. The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and NCIS continue to dominate, and coverage of men's basketball conference tournaments and the selection show gave the network a nice weekend jolt (and expect even bigger things for CBS now that the tournament has actually begun).

However, CBS is making lots of noise with some impressive and interesting casting choices for pilots it has in the works, and that's what boosted it up a few spots this time. Rainn Wilson just joined Hart Hanson's adaptation of Backstrom in what could be a type-breaking role; Ben McKenzie and Mandy Moore are aboard The Advocates, from Bruno Heller and David Nutter (which is almost guaranteed to get picked up, so we'll see what happens to Southland; Kristin Davis will star in Bad Teacher; Amber Tamblyn and Skeet Ulrich will star in Anatomy of Violence, from the Homeland team (yeah, they're busy); and Stephen Fry is part of Greg Garcia's comedy pilot for the network. CBS is bringing us the stars!

The network is also buzzing because it released a smartphone/tablet app and sold The Good Wife in a somewhat groundbreaking syndication deal.



3. AMC (previous rank: 2)

Zombies. Very, very popular zombies. The Walking Dead continues to thrive in the ratings and in various social media spaces, and the best news of all is that the last few episodes have been pretty darn good. Somehow, amid all the showrunner drama, it feels like the show can improve. Pretty wild.

AMC also cut a deal with Netflix to air The Killing just three months after it ends on the network and released a snazzy Mad Men poster, sending the buzz for the upcoming sixth season into overdrive.



4. History (previous rank: 1)

Sure, the ratings forThe Bible and Vikings went down in their respective second and third weeks, but they didn't plummet. The Bible is a big-time success as a miniseries (will History and Mark Burnett do a sequel then?), and Vikings proves that History can guide a long-form scripted product to life. Armed with those two shows plus Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and Swamp People, History, had six of the top 12 cable shows two weeks ago (and that includes WWE's Raw counting as thee separate programs, so it was really six of the top nine). That's big business for a niche cable network.

Plus, we can't ignore the "controversy" over whether or not The Bible producers purposely hired an actor who looked like President Obama to play Satan. That seems really, really dumb to me, but people are talking about it.



5. ABC (previous rank: 3)

I don't want to keep beating the same dead horse with ABC, so I'll keep it brief: The network has a slew of solid shows that generally perform well in the ratings and on social media. The best news is that the network's best drama, Nashville, (yeah, I said it) made ratings strides with the most recent DVR viewership figures. That nicely corresponds with the show's uptick in quality over the last few episodes. Red Widow hasn't lit the world on fire in its competitive Sunday-night timeslot but unlike 666 Park Avenue, it's a halfway decent show. Probably not decent enough to convince ABC to bring it back next year, but it's a watchable hour that fits pretty well with Revenge (which is back killin' it) and Once Upon a Time (which I've given up on but people seem to really like lately).

ABC also gets points for Good Morning America's first February sweeps victory in nearly two decades and some compelling casting choices (Kelly Preston in a comedy, Christian Slater in Kyle Killen's drama pilot).



6. Fox (previous rank: 8)

Where my Fox haters at? The network rises a few spots on the back of a couple of interesting episodes of The Following and the solid ratings of the returning Hell's Kitchen. Like ABC, the story is kind of the same with Fox as it was last time we did this: American Idol is doing stuff and The Following and Glee are performing fine in their respective timeslots and on social media. New Girl and The Mindy Project haven't been on much over the past few weeks, but both shows saw nice growth in the most recent DVR viewership report and did fine last week in their return.

Moreover, Fox's pilots are coming together with some really engaging casting choices: Christopher Meloni in Justin Halpern's sitcom (probably my favorite casting move of the whole pilot season so far) and Karl Urban and Minka Kelly in a futuristic cop drama from J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams.



7. HBO (previous rank: 7)

Can a network remain in the rankings because of a ton of teasers and trailers for upcoming series? Well, when we're talking about Game of Thrones and a Louis C.K. stand-up special, the answer is absolutely yes. Also, disregarding the sometimes-suffocating internet discussion about it, Girls just finished up a pretty darn good second season, so that's cool. But seriously, dragons!



8. Syfy (previous rank: N/A)

Syfy takes the "generally successful broad cable network" spot from USA this time around, with more original shows on at the moment and a few buzzy moves. Continuum just wrapped its first season here in the U.S., and although the show wasn't an out-of-the-box hit for the network, it did just fine (especially for something Syfy didn't have to pay as much for). Being Human continues to roll on with its typical but dedicated audience of about two million viewers, and the show thrives in social media spaces like GetGlue. Throw in successful runs of Face Off (which was just renewed for a fifth season) and Robot Combat League (which is just awesome), and Syfy has a nice little stable of programs on the air at the moment, with the much-hyped Defiance and more Warehouse 13 on the way very quickly.

Plus, Ron D. Moore's Helix received a straight-to-series order of 13 episodes. Battlestar Galactica fans rejoice.



9. NBC (previous rank: N/A)

Hear me out. Yes, NBC is still struggling in the ratings. It's pretty bleak over there. The network has just been trying to hold on until this week, with both The Voice and Revolution returning, and while those shows will provide some more temporary relief, their probable success only reinforces how fractured and troubled NBC's schedule is. However, at least the network is responding to its mistakes by shipping Smash to Saturdays and giving Go On a chance on Thursdays after The Office. Acknowledging mistakes way after the fact isn't as good as just not making them in the first place, but it does help a little.

Plus, NBC is really killing it in the buzz department, both intentionally and unintentionally. Have you seen the teasers for Hannibal? How, uh, good does that look? And how surprised are you by that? The hype for Revolution's return is also at its peak right now.

Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake almost single-handedly brought the buzz to NBC late night, first with a much-discussed fifth hosting gig on SNL and then with a week-long stint at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that birthed another "History of Rap" medley. And that's not all: Somehow, NBC head honcho Robert Greenblatt is so sensitive that he doesn't take kindly to Jay Leno's jokes about the network's flatlining ratings. Read that again. Someone is offended by Jay Leno's jokes—and not because they're bad. That kerfuffle, on top of whatever the heck is still going on at The Today Show, means that all sorts of people are talking about NBC. Who cares if it's not for "good" stuff?



10. ESPN (previous rank: N/A)

This is another somewhat odd choice, mostly because so much of what airs on ESPN is terrible. However, the controversial First Take segment between Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman and ESPN goon Skip Bayless set the internet afire, so much so that Bill Simmons, one of the more popular faces of ESPN, got suspended from Twitter because he spoke out against his overlords. So of course, that only created more headlines and ESPN got exactly what it wanted. (Kind of like what I'm doing for the network right now, shoot.)

Yet, despite ESPN's general suckiness, there's one thing that the network knows how to do: air live sports. The last few weeks have been pretty exceptional in that department, with the focus on college basketball's conference tournaments.

And finally, Sunday's Survive and Advance, the latest in the 30 for 30 documentary series, was a rock-solid look back at the epic underdog run by NC State's men's basketball team in 1983.



11. Starz/Cinemax (previous ranks: N/A)

Two networks share the "special acknowledgements" spot this time, almost solely because of their respective hyper-violent original series. Both Spartacus and Banshee are quite popular around these parts, and based on the critical response and buzz, both shows are having/had strong seasons as well. Though we're nearing the end of the line for Spartacus and Banshee is gone until January 2014, I thought they both deserved a little props for showing that there's good work being done all over pay cable, not just on HBO and Showtime.




There you have it, folks. Which network tops your list based on what they've been up to over the past two weeks?



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