"Did the president call?" "No, but TV.com's Network Power Rankings did!" Yuk yuk yuk.
Hello, fellow television fans and anti-fans! It's that time again: TV.com's Network Power Rankings, where we rank and discuss the buzziest moves on network, on cable, and online. As always, here's how the Power Rankings 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 preceding weeks.
Last time, FX kept its hold on the top spot thanks to a big channel extension, some welcome renewals, and as always, good programming. But as we get through various network Upfront presentations and move toward the end of the season, with all the renewals, cancellations, and pilot orders, there's going to be all kinds of movement. This is an exciting—albeit sometimes very stressful—time for fans.
1. HBO (previous rank: 3)
Have you heard of the little show called Game of Thrones? It's pretty cool. The most recent episode brought in the series' highest ratings to-date, which means this is the monster that just keeps growing. Good social media buzz as well. Veep is also back and somehow already underrated, both in the literal Nielsen sense and in the larger cultural conversation sense. Seriously, Veep is the funniest show on HBO. You should watch it. Right now. I'll wait.
Okay, cool. Speaking of funny, HBO also just aired a comedy special with that guy who always wears black T-shirts, Louis C.K. He's funny, it was funny. You should probably also watch that.
But HBO has also made a lot of moves lately that helped it take this top spot. Pete Berg is going to direct Damon Lindelof's adaptation of The Leftovers. The network also keeps giving Ryan Murphy money, greenlighting his relationship drama Open, which I already hate but will watch every second of. Patricia Arquette has joined Ron Livingston and Jeffrey Wright in what is an unbelievably stacked cast for Boardwalk Empire Season 4.
2. AMC (previous rank: 4)
AMC moves up a few spots, thanks primarily to the return of one of television's best shows, Mad Men. Even if the series' ratings are down, it gets extra points for all the new facial hair and for Pete's generally scummy nature. Plus good social media buzz for the series, and obviously good discussion all over the web.
There are a few other things of note: Another one of the best shows on television, Breaking Bad, has a final season premiere date, maybe a spin-off and a stupid, cheap talk show (if Dean Norris and Bryan Cranston don't host it together, AMC is doing this all wrong). It's a bummer that the show isn't coming back until August, but AMC just has to get those new episodes of The Killing to air. Gotta strike when the air is hot!
Hell on Wheels is going to air on Saturdays, which is half interesting because it suggests AMC has identified a niche audience to appeal to in that timeslot, but also half hilarious because LOL AMC and LOL Saturday. The network has also renewed most of its super-cheap (notice a trend?) reality shows, including Comic Book Men, and announced the development of about a half-dozen other shows.
Get this: Of the seven new shows in development, four are set in the past, two in the future, and one in Afghanistan. Honestly, the period pieces all sound terrible—the 1920s auto boom! A Kentucky (i.e. racist) mining town in the 1950s!—and AMC ain't paying for a show about Afghanistan (Vancouver can only do so much, guys). I can't wait until Mad Men and Breaking Bad are done. AMC is basically the NBC of cable as it is; this is only going to get better. But lots of news is good news, at least as far as the Power Rankings are concerned.
3. Syfy (previous rank: N/A)
Syfy risin'! The cable channel with the best-spelled name around held its upfront last week, which means there are a number of interesting things to anticipate. Syfy renewed Being Human (yay) and Ghost Mine (LOL), but then announced that it's moving forward with a slew of projects, including something from one of the internet's favorite songs, Bryan Fuller. Also on that list of projects? A horror anthology series produced by Jamie Foxx. That makes so little sense that I can't wait to see it. On top of that, Syfy debuted the first trailer for Ron Moore's new project Helix, which didn't offer tons of information but suggested a really intriguing tone.
Oh yeah, there's also that show that you TV.com readers seem to be interested in, Defiance. The buzz was pretty good, and so were the ratings. I'd imagine that the social media buzz will follow once those rankings come out as well.
4. CBS (previous rank: 2)
This is a good time of year for CBS (though to be fair, when isn't it a good time for CBS?) thanks to March Madness and the Masters. Sports! Both events did well in viewership and in social media buzz (sports in general does better than we often assume, I think) and even better, both the basketball tournament final and the final round of the Masters were unbelievably entertaining. Again, sports! (BTW, in the interest of full disclsoure, CBS and TV.com share a parent company.)
True story, here's how popular The Big Bang Theory is: A rerun—you know, an episode that already aired—was the eighth most popular individual airing on broadcast TV last week. A RERUN. That is some 1990s TV ratings stuff. It also killed it on social media, which means people don't care that they're tweeting about or checking into episodes they've already seen. This is a level of popularity that I can't even fathom. A Two and a Half Men rerun did pretty well too.
More bad news for CBS haters is that the network's comedy development looks strong, with another Chuck Lorre show almost guaranteed to make it to air (sometimes, we're so lucky as a people). The slate is so good that it's possible that a show with both Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar might not make it to air. CBS doesn't even have the schedule real estate to pick up many new shows; the network's scraps are probably better than anything NBC is working on.
5. MTV (previous rank: N/A)
Welcome to the big leagues MTV. It's your first appearance in the Power Rankings, take it all in. Moving the MTV Movie Awards from summer to spring apparently paid off, as ratings were up and buzz was quite high (even if our future goddess and overlord Jennifer Lawrence did not show up). The big news here though is, of course, the return of your favorite high school comedy and mine, Awkward. Critics seemed to like Tuesday's Season 3 premiere, and the ratings were rock-solid as well.
6. Starz (previous rank: N/A)
More big moves! Starz makes only its second appearance in the Power Rankings and this time it's not in the #11 Everyone Gets a Trophy for Being Special Memorial Space! But really, the network deserves it; they've had a good run over the last few weeks. Spartacus came to an end, satisfying Andy Daglas and apparently most of you as well. The series finale was one of the highest-rated efforts in the whole run, which is a little bittersweet.
But dry your eyes, fans of completely historically accurate action and sex romps: Starz's Da Vinci's Demons, a show with one of the most ridiculous premises this side of Do No Harm, debuted to such a strong rating that Starz immediately renewed it. Immediately! Starz is also doing a pirate drama produced by Michael Bay, which is the most Starz thing of all-time. The trailer needs more explosions and 360-degree camera moves, but I'll survive. And Magic City is coming back for a second season in June, if that's something you care about.
7. A&E (previous rank: N/A)
Bates Motel is chugging along, well enough apparently to grab a relatively quick second-season order. Noel Kirkpatrick is psyched! The show does well on GetGlue, which makes complete sense: Creepy mothers love stickers. Smothering and stickers. Also goin' on at A&E: Something called Duck Dynasty. 7.8 million viewers for an episode last week. That's like the total rating for Season 4 of Community, across nine episodes. A&E usually airs four episodes of DD in a block on Wednesdays, and last week, all four episodes were among the top 25 most-watched shows on basic cable. You're probably watching people talk about ducks and dynasties right now.
8. FX (previous rank: 1)
Big drop for FX this go-round, but that was inevitable. Their made their big scheduling announcements earlier than most, so they reaped the benefits of all those crazy fascinating announcements last time. Since then, things have been pretty quiet for FX, news-wise. Nevertheless, we can't forget that Justified and Archer closed out their respective seasons in strong fashion and that The Americans is still chugging strongly along.
9. Fox (previous rank: 10)
I feel weird about rewarding Glee for its "school shooting" episode, because if there is any individual in Hollywood who we should never, ever encourage, it's Ryan Murphy. Still, there's no doubt that the episode was controversial, and it helped Glee score the one thing that has been eluding it all season: buzz. People were definitely talking about the show more than normal, so you win, Murphy. (Ratings were also up.) Still, it's a little weird that Glee hasn't been renewed for a fifth season yet. With personal and professional reasons pulling members of the core cast away, and the messiness of the second half of Season 4, the chance it doesn't come back has maybe risen from 0 percent to 0.2 percent. Fox just might ask Murphy to do more school shooting episodes. What if a few members of New Directions join the cult on The Following?
Speaking of! People are still watching and talking about The Following even though it's truly terrible (hope you like the broadcast money, K. Williamson, but you can come back to Mystic Falls anytime you want). And even though the post-Idol experiment failed pretty clearly, New Girl and The Mindy Project continue to make up the best hour-long comedy block on television right now (Ready for Love is funnier, but it's a little longer). Plus, both are doing well once DVR numbers are factored in.
Outside of Mike Schur's pilot, everything in contention for pick-up at Fox makes me really sleepy. Greg Kinnear? Sure. Can't wait for that on Mondays at 9pm in the fall.
10. ABC (previous rank: 7)
Right now, ABC is just boring. Other than Happy Endings, the alphabet network doesn't have any show in real jeopardy that's riling people up on Twitter. Modern Family continues to chug along and is helping How to Live with the Longest Title on the Air do well in that problematic 9:30 timeslot, so that's fine. Still, it's been tough for the network to really build momentum in the rankings because it's been hamstrung by a slew of lame scheduling things. With the 31 award shows ABC has aired this year, many of their high-profile dramas have been running on disjointed, stop-and-start schedules. Nashville's back! Oh wait, it's on for three weeks and then off until sweeps. The Sunday dramas are operating the same way. It's frustrating, and I thought ABC dealt with this with Lost like five years ago.
The good news is that in about a month, we'll have all kinds of ABC-related things to discuss. The network always picks up a half-dozen more shows than anyone else on broadcast, and by the looks of things, they have some intriguing things in development. The S.H.I.E.L.D. program is a shoo-in, but ABC also has the Once spinoff, a show based on the Big Thunder ride (puke), a show from Kyle Killen starring Christian Slater, and another dozen things that seem interesting but ABC will put at Thursday at 8 p.m. and immediately kill.
But hey, Scandal made it to the cover of Entertainment Weekly. That's something!
11. NBC (previous rank: 6)
After a predicted ratings bump with the returns of The Voice and Revolution, NBC fell back to earth—and really quickly. There's a dirty little secret out there that NBC doesn't want us to talk about: Revolution isn't doing that well. Hiatus or no hiatus, spring or no spring, the ratings are down and down big. Not including DVR numbers, the last new episode of the lights-out drama scored a 2.2 in the 18-49 demo. That's worse than 60 Minutes (no shots at 60 Minutes). I don't even strongly dislike Revolution; it's fine. But we're a long way away from October when NBC couldn't wait to talk about how it was on its way back.
The big question now is whether NBC will consider moving Revolution come next fall. I'm guessing they won't, because Bob Greenblatt hates admitting failure or even being pragmatic until he has to (see: Smash). So we'll probably hear him and other NBC folks talking about how well they did in the fall, chalk up the big drops to an extended absence, and then try to extend Revolution throughout more of the year. But The Voice is the only valuable property on NBC's schedule; keeping an eroding Revolution on after it is a waste of a timeslot. If NBC continues to be high on The Sixth Gun like it is now, I could see it premiering in the fall, with Revolution coming on later in the year, keeping more consistent runs of originals for both.
Elsewhere at the Peacock, Hannibal! The ratings actually rose in week two. A tenth of a percentage point, but when you're a 10pm Thursday drama on NBC, that's a reason to celebrate. If it does well again this week, the show might actually be in good shape to make it to next year—where it should have a better timeslot.
NBC has a lot of decisions to make. 2013 has been so bad for the network that it make you wonder whether or not this is the year they'll simply go scorched earth and cancel almost everything. The comedy block consistently gets ethered by just about everyone, it has to go. Community, Go On, The New Normal and 1600 Penn could all be canned. I'd guess that the first two stick around and the latter two say goodbye. It's always too early to tell, but few of NBC's pilot seem interesting, other than Jason Katims and David Walton's About a Boy... but that's destined to be burned off about a year from now anyway.