Media Buyers Praise, Pan New Series From ABC, CBS
With 20 series returning next season, the most by any
broadcast network, CBS once again has the schedule stability media buyers love.
Yes, the network has fewer holes to fill than its rivals, and it won this
season in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo race, but all that doesn't mean there
aren't some buyers out there who can find some fault with the network's slate
of six new shows.
There is unanimity among buyers about the network's two new,
short-arc dramas—Hostages and Intelligence—that will share the
Monday night time period with all consecutive first-run episodes to air
through the first six months of the season. All those asked about the two new
Monday 10 p.m. series believe they will do well in what is slated to be a very
competitive time period. ABC returns veteran police drama Castle, while
NBC has scheduled what most buyers believe is its top new drama in The
However, buyers diverge a bit when discussing the four new
CBS comedies—two of which will air on Monday in the network's comedy
block, while two others will run on Thursday night, which CBS will turn into
two hours of comedies.
The highest-profile new sitcom from CBS is The Crazy
Ones, starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a father and
daughter who own an ad agency. The clips looked funny, buyers agreed, but the
concern among some is that Williams' comedic style over the course of a season
will become too overbearing and outrageous for viewers in mainstream America to
handle. Others believe that Williams' comedic star power will turn the series
into a hit.
Buyers are also mixed on Mom, a mother-daughter
relationship comedy starring Allison Janney as the critical, estranged mom, and
Anna Faris as her newly-sober single-mom daughter. This one leads out of 2
Broke Girls and the buyers who give it a shot say it could have good
synergy with its lead-in. Buyers who question its chances believe the story lines
might not be embraced by a sizable number of viewers. However, it is executive
produced by Chuck Lorre, who already has three comedy hits on the network in The
Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly, so
it can't be discounted.
The third sitcom, The Millers, which will lead out of
The Big Bang Theory on Thursday nights, got the most laughs during the
upfront presentation and was mentioned by the most buyers as the new comedy
they liked best. It stars Will Arnett as a recently divorced TV news reporter
who is ready to live the swinging singles life until his parents divorce after
43 years and his mom moves in with him. The parents are played by Margo
Martindale and Beau Bridges.
The problem with a sitcom leading out of Big Bang is
that no matter what the sitcom is, it should be prepared to potentially lose
four or five million viewers from its lead-in. CBS has tried a bunch of sitcoms
in the time period over the past two years and none has succeeded.
The sitcom that was panned by virtually every buyer polled
was We Are Men, which stars Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn and
Chris Smith as four bachelors living in an apartment complex who hang together
and offer each other advice on dating. The series is total male humor, which
might work on cable, and does, with series such as TBS' Men at Work, but
might be risky on broadcast where more than 60% of the viewers are women; this
is particularly true for a show leading out of How I Met Your Mother.
One buyer predicted it would be the first new series
cancelled, while another buyer said, "Didn't CBS learn its lesson last year
with How to Be a Gentleman?"
That series, with male humor, led out of The Big Bang Theory and
was canceled after two episodes.
Television, however, is a funny business, so you never know.
At the CBS after-party following its upfront presentation, the line of female
media agency folks waiting to get their pictures taken with the We Are Men
cast was one of the longest. So maybe women will get into the male humor
this time around. Then again, media agency employees in New York City might
have different sensibilities than women in other parts of the country.
With so few holes to fill, however, one CBS exec said if
just two of the four comedies catch on, it will be a positive for the network.
But what might turn out to be its best move could be shifting Hawaii Five-0
to Friday night and freeing up that Monday 10 p.m. time period for its two
short-arc dramas. There was not one buyer who was asked about the new CBS
programming who didn't volunteer that they liked those two dramas.
ABC Hopes for a
ABC, as has been the case the past few years, introduced a
bundle of new series -- a total of 13 -- although only eight will air in the
fall. One drama and one sitcom on the minds of most buyers as being the two
series most likely to succeed: family comedy The Goldbergs and drama Marvel's
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The popularity of the Marvel franchise should get good
initial tune-in and then it will be up to the creators to get the viewers
coming back each week," one buyer said.
ABC is thinking that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could
draw a family audience on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. leading into The Goldbergs
at 9 p.m. Most buyers, however, panned the new Tuesday 9:30 p.m. sitcom Trophy
Wife and new 10 p.m. drama Lucky 7, the latter about a group of
seven gas station workers who jointly play the lottery every week hoping to
better their lives.
Most buyers think ABC sitcom Super Fun Night leading
out of its hit comedy Modern Family on Wednesday nights has a chance to
make it. New drama Betrayal on Sundays at 10 p.m. has good synergy
leading out of Revenge, buyers say, but Revenge itself was
ratings-challenged last season, so Betrayal
might have to do more on its own to draw and keep viewers.
The one series that ABC thinks very highly of, but buyers
are not, is the spinoff of the network's Sunday drama series Once Upon a
Time. Like the fairy tale original, the new series, Once Upon a Time in
Wonderland, tells the tale of Alice in a new and different way.
ABC entertainment president Paul Lee believes the series has
a solid head start because it should draw a good portion of the eight million
viewers that Once Upon a Time has averaged this season. Buyers, however,
point out that the series was slipping as the season progressed and the past
four weeks it has averaged 7.3 million viewers. Last season it averaged 9.5
million. So buyers are skeptical about how well the series will do, especially
since it's going to be up against CBS' The Big Bang Theory, which averaged 15.5 million viewers
this season, and Fox's The X Factor, which averaged 8.4 million.
Still, ABC was given plaudits by most media buyers for
investing in a wide range of new series aimed at stabilizing its schedule. Buyers
also look favorably on ABC's decision to eliminate the Dancing With the Stars
results show and
incorporate it into the Monday night competition show. They believe that with
the series showing steady declines in viewers and its 18-49 rating, the network
needs to begin developing something else to fill that hour.
Having said that, most buyers realize that ABC will take a
cumulative viewer and rating hit next season, since the DWTS results
show still averaged 13 million viewers this season and a low, but not awful 2.2
in the 18-49 demo.
Perhaps one under-the-radar pickup that ABC made
that buyers might jump into during the upfront is a special titled Toy Story
of Terror from Disney-Pixar that is expected to air sometime in October,
most likely around Halloween. The special is a new tale featuring all the
characters and voices from the Toy Story
films. It's about a road trip the gang takes where they end up at a roadside
motel and one of the toys goes missing. Surely this will be an event watched by
a mass audience of kids with their parents, maybe early on a Sunday night?