[Over the next six days, I’m going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I’ll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I’m old-fashioned. Check out last year’s DVR Gridlock installments.]
ABC: “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”
CBS: “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Millers”
The CW: “The Vampire Diaries”
FOX: “The X Factor” (and then “Idol”)
NBC: “Parks and Recreation,” “Welcome to the Family”
ABC: “Grey’s Anatomy”
CBS: “The Crazy Ones,” “Two and a Half Men”
The CW: “Reign”
FOX: “Glee,” with “Rake” in the spring
NBC: “Sean Saves the World,” “The Michael J. Fox Show”
What’s Changed: TV’s most valuable night remains the night most likely to traumatize your hypothetical DVR. Unless you have a four-tuner DVR. In that case, if *any* night taxes your DVR, you probably watch too much TV. And yes, that’s ME saying that. FOX is the only network keeping things the same on Thursdays, at least in the fall, with “X Factor” results that nobody watches leading into “Glee.” “American Idol” results will return in the spring, leading into “Rake,” at least for a while. ABC is 2/3rds stable with the resilient “Grey’s Anatomy” leading into last season’s surprise breakout “Scandal.” The CW has given the post-“Vampire Diaries” slot to “Reign,” which doesn’t make much sense, but hey, they have to try something and you definitely can’t say that they’ve ever failed with this kind of show before. While CBS is returning “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” and “Elementary,” the network is banking heavily on Robin Williams in “The Crazy Ones” and, to a lesser degree, Will Arnett in “The Millers.” And, finally, NBC doesn’t have a single show returning to the same slot as it was in last year, with “Parks and Rec” taking a different Thursday home, “Parenthood” coming over from Tuesdays and then a trio of variably high-profile new comedies, including the returns of past NBC favorites Sean Hayes and Michael J. Fox. So yeah. That’s a lot of changes.
How the Ratings Race Is Impacted: CBS is taking the biggest risk. No question about that. This is a night that CBS wins and there’s no reason to think that “Big Bang Theory” isn’t going to continue to dominate its time period and rank as TV’s most watched comedy. However, CBS has taken a night with no big weaknesses and created the potential for a gaping hole in the middle. If “The Millers” fails, will that impact “Crazy Ones”? And if CBS’ big bet on Robin Williams fails, will that weaken “Two and a Half Men”? And given that “Two and a Half Men” is very likely to provide a weaker lead-in than “Person of Interest” did, what impact will that have on “Elementary”? Don’t get me wrong. I know why CBS is doing this. The network needs to recharge its comedy lineup with “How I Met Your Mother” departing and “Two and a Half Men” on borrowed time. Setting up a new Thursday block gives CBS more seeding opportunities and it also let the network put an established hit in its only struggling Tuesday hour. You can try stuff like this if you’re the No. 1 network. And if you’re NBC… You keep throwing things against the wall, but with what hope of stickage? Unlike a lot of observers, I like the idea of putting “Michael J. Fox” at 9:30 because if it works, it gives a boost to “Parenthood,” while “Parenthood” seems fairly likely to do better than most of what NBC has fiddled with in this slot for years. I don’t see much upside to “Sean Saves the World,” though, while as much as I love “Parks and Rec,” I don’t see it as being a fruitful lead-in for “Welcome to the Family.” But if NBC can build the back half of the night, that’s big. ABC’s decision to air “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” in the long-crippled 8 p.m. hour seems faulty. In that slot, the show gets zero benefit from its “Once Upon a Time” roots and goes against some of the toughest competition in TV. Programming “Wonderland” here shows a lot of faith on ABC’s part, but why? The network hasn’t even seen a full pilot. Dunno. I’m also baffled by the “Reign” thing. It doesn’t seem to make much sense. Of course, I haven’t watched “Reign.” And as for “Rake,” if FOX still believes “Idol” can function as an effective launch pad, this was a necessity, because FOX has no remaining dramas capable of serving as a viable lead-in, unless you count “Bones,” which FOX apparently doesn’t with the shift to Fridays.
My Predicted DVR: Yeah, Thursdays are impossible and it becomes an issue of relative convenience in off-network viewership. For example, because it’s a breeze to watch NBC shows on Hulu, my 8 p.m. DVR will be “Vampire Diaries” and the CBS comedies, with “Wonderland” also getting a few weeks of Hulu viewing to prove itself. So that’s impossible. But the 9 p.m. hour? No clue. Maybe “The Crazy Ones,” “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Grey’s Anatomy”? Unless I somehow love “Reign”? And in the 10 p.m. hour, I’ll be recording “Scandal” and “Elementary” and watching “Parenthood” on Hulu, probably. I guess.
How have the new schedules impacted your Thursdays?