Decades-Long Primetime Viewing Traditions Falling Apart

By TV / Video Download Archives
Cover image for  article: Decades-Long Primetime Viewing Traditions Falling Apart

A few things are clarifying as we hit the first month of this fall broadcast TV season. The first: a decades-long viewing tradition is falling apart.

Monday nights and CBS--one of the great all-time success stories in the history of this medium. Generations of viewers centered their attention of the week on comedies and dramas on this night and network, from Lucille Ball's series to How I Met Your Mother. We're talking from the mid-1960s onward. Not anymore. Thanks to erosion from Dancing with the StarsandThe Voice, and in recent years from unworthy sitcoms as Mike & Molly and 2 Broke Girls, plus quick failures such as last year's Partners, Mondays on CBS are tanking in third place.

Things accelerated this past month with the intro of two critically panned comedies, of which one--We Are Men--got chopped last week. Throw in moving Hawaii Five-Oto Friday nights for Hostages, a suspense drama viewers roundly rejected, plus the surprise acceptance of Fox's new mysterySleepy Hollow, and you end up with a huge mess of a lineup. With all these factors, CBS may find it could take a substantial while to put their Monday prime back together.

Move over to ABC, which rolled its dice on an all-new Tuesday primetime, arguably the biggest gamble of any broadcast network this fall. So far, Lucky 7's out the door as the first new series anywhere chopped; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel comic and movie adaptation getting superpower buzz pre-premiere, is dropping audience in alarming chunks, and the sitcom hour in between (The Goldbergsand Trophy Wife) is fighting for air. On top of that gamble, S.H.I.E.L.D. received a full season run last week, despite the audience loss.

If S.H.I.E.L.D.'s audience free-fall doesn't halt this week, ABC will get second-guessed for its call to keep that series going, and the all-original night intact. That could lead to some radical action to right this ship. Tuesday night isn't a safe one for Fox's two-hour comedy block either. Dads is a dud, pulling down critical fave Brooklyn Nine-Nine with it, while New Girl season three and The Mindy Project season two aren't working out with viewers.

As for NBC, Sunday Night Football and The Voice continue to deliver the ratings, with the latter bringing viewers to The Blacklist, for now the one new series success this fall. On the other hand, Revolution's move from post-Voice Mondays to early Wednesday nights looks like a bust, as does the modernized Ironside wrapping that night. Separately, the reconstituted Thursday schedule is backfiring, led off by Parks & Recreation. NBC's trio of new sitcoms, even Michael J. Fox's return, keep free-falling.

The next few weeks will determine if viewers see a wave of cancellations or if the broadcast nets will, like last year, give the majority of their new series more time to increase their viewership, pinning hopes on DVR and video-on-demand results.

With all that, something else going on should not be lost in the action. Cable networks are no longer afraid of challenging the broadcast networks with original content the first month of a fall season. The latest examples of this: A&E's new Duck Dynasty season, which against new broadcast competition pulls seven-to-nine million viewers per week, and Lifetime'sWitches of East End. Still ahead: ABC Family makes its first inroad of new fall series with Pretty Little Liars spinoff Ravenswood, and TBS debuts Trust Me, I'm A Game Show Host.

Trust me, by this time next year, you'll see many more cable networks jump in with, or pump up, original series opposite broadcast. Count on Netflix (which launched Derekwith Ricky Gervais two weeks ahead of the fall broadcast blitz), Hulu, Amazon and company to read that tea leaf and react. For sure, viewers are only going to see their menu of available original programs widen next fall and beyond.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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