[As in years past, this week, 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. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]
ABC: “Grey's Anatomy”
CBS: Thursday Night Football/ “The Big Bang Theory,” “Life in Pieces”
The CW: “The Vampire Diaries”
NBC: “Heroes Reborn”
CBS: Thursday Night Football/ “Mom,” “Angel from Hell”
The CW: “The Originals”
FOX: “Sleepy Hollow”
NBC: “The Blacklist”
ABC: “How To Get Away With Murder”
CBS: Thursday Night Football/”Elementary”
NBC: “The Player”
What's Changed: ABC's Shonda Rhimes Thursday remains intact. Otherwise, everybody else is mixing things up at least somewhat, but doing so around still points of stability. So CBS is using “Big Bang Theory,” still the top comedy on TV despite some big drops in the spring, and the increasingly sturdy “Mom” as a launching pad for a pair of new comedies, which CBS has to keep doing because CBS' recent comedy track record is decidedly mixed. [Everybody's comedy track record is decidedly mixed.] And CBS continues to use the valuable Thursday 10 p.m. real estate for the struggling “Elementary,” which makes very little sense to me, but I guess it's gotta air somewhere. NBC, meanwhile, is sticking with “Blacklist” at 9 p.m. where it plummeted in the spring, but still outperformed everything NBC has had there for years. NBC is banking really heavily that audiences forgot why they tuned out “Heroes” and that they'll be eager to watch “Heroes Reborn,” which I'd say is probably specious logic in the longrun, but fairly plausible for a few weeks. And the formerly hot “Sleepy Hollow” moves to a ridiculously tough time period and will be partnered with the aging “Bones,” a show that provides a middling lead-in, but it'll still probably do better than most of what FOX aired there last year. Similarly, the formerly hot “The Originals” moves to a ridiculously tough time period and will be partnered with the aging “The Vampire Diaries,” but will definitely do better than “Reign,” which has been sucking up that real estate for two years.
How the Ratings Race Is Impacted: I think a lot will depend on how well or poorly “How To Get Away With Murder” returns after six months away. The Shonda Rhimes Thursday lineup was a powerhouse in the fall, but in the spring when the Shonda-free “American Crime” took over, not only did the 10 p.m. hour crater, but “Scandal” took a steep dip as well. And the spring run of “How To Get Away With Murder” was already somewhat down from the fall episodes. But without a perilous plunge, ABC should still easily win the night in the key demo and keep things competitive overall, at least after CBS is finished dominating the start of the season with Thursday Night Football. After football is over, a lot will depend on whether “The Big Bang Theory” pushes back close to a 4.0 in the 18-49 demographic, or if it says in the low 3s where it finished the season. As I said above, I'm assuming that “Heroes Reborn” is good for a couple weeks of good numbers, but that it settles into the mid-to-low-1s in the key demo. If it's more “mid,” with a DVR bump, then NBC is satisfied and perhaps “Blacklist” remains steady. If “Sleepy Hollow” does a 1.1 or a 1.2 in the key demo, that's an improvement over “Backstrom” and “Gracepoint.” If “The Originals” does a 0.5 or 0.6 in the key demo, that's a big improvement over “Reign.” So I think there's potential for NBC, The CW and FOX to all make variably sized cosmetic improvements, but unless “Heroes Reborn” or “The Player” turns out to be a long-term sustaining hit, I'm not expecting any huge shifts.
My Predicted DVR: In the 8 p.m. hour I'll continue to watch “The Big Bang Theory” and let “Vampire Diaries” pile up on my DVR. I check in on “Bones” occasionally and I'll definitely give “Heroes Reborn” a few episodes to see if it reminds me of why I never finished the last 10-ish episodes of the final season. At 9 p.m. I'll watch “Scandal” and “Mom,” but I'm significantly behind on “Sleepy Hollow,” “The Blacklist” and “The Originals.” Catching up on a couple of them are summer mid-level priorities, but there's a reasonable chance that I'll drop one or two next season, with “Blacklist” the top candidate for ditching. [Oh and I'll give “Life in Pieces” and “Angel From Hell” a few episodes, but neither looked essential based on the cut-downs.] I've stuck with shows that I like much less than “Elementary,” but I still dropped it last season. So I'll watch “How To Get Away With Murder” and probably “The Player.” It's odd. Thursday is the night advertisers allegedly value most and I know there are fanatic devotees for many of these shows, but I find that there's no night of programming that piles up on my DVR as deep as Thursday programming. Dunno why.
How have the new schedules impacted your Thursdays?
DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Wednesday Nights
DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Tuesday Nights
DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Monday Nights
Last year's DVR Gridlock series