Programming

Schedule Helps Sophomores Shine More Than Slump

'Happy Endings,' 'Mike & Molly' are early winners in season two 10/24/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Last year, in the absence of any breakout fall
hits, networks sang the praises of growing sophomore
shows such as Glee, NCIS: L.A. and especially
Modern Family, which surged early in its second
season. This fall, the focus has been on the freshmen, as
such success stories as New Girl and 2 Broke Girls have
highlighted the heralded resurgence of comedy.

Overlooked in the good news coming out of this fall’s
crop, however, is that smart scheduling and a bit of luck
have helped generate big gains for some sophomores,
though others have eroded against stiffer competition.

No second-year series has improved more than ABC’s
Happy Endings, though that growth is partly due to the
on-the-bubble ratings it posted in its freshman run last
spring. The ensemble sitcom’s renewal came as somewhat
of a surprise given that its ratings were lower than
those of fellow rookie comedies Better With You and Mr.
Sunshine
, which were both cancelled.

“We think it has huge potential,” Paul Lee, ABC entertainment
group president, said of Happy Endings at
the network’s upfront presentation in May.

Part of that potential was likely seen in Happy Endings
upscale skew. In its freshman season, the show had an
index of 120, meaning it rated 20% higher in households
earning $100,000-plus in annual income. Shifting up a
half-hour this fall to air out of megahit Modern Family
has certainly benefited the series, which has improved a
whopping 67% in the adults 18-49 demo. Its index is also
up to 151, behind only Modern Family on ABC.

A bolstered lead-in has also benefi ted CBS sophomore
Mike & Molly, which returned to a series high this
fall driven by renewed interest in the Ashton Kutcherled
Two and a Half Men. But there are more factors than
the comedy resurgence blowing in Mike & Molly’s favor
this season, not least of which is the growing popularity
of series star Melissa McCarthy, thanks to the summer
blockbuster Bridesmaids, her raved-about turn hosting
Saturday Night Live and her recent Emmy win.

“If you want to see a show that may have a really good
sophomore season, that’s what I would look for, driven
by [McCarthy], with all this recognition that she’s gotten,”
said Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media.

1024 Programming Scorecard

CBS’ Monday comedy lineup improving as a whole
has also spurred Hawaii Five-0 in its second year.
Though the show is down from its big open last fall, it
is tracking better than its first-season average.

“Having more people from 8-10 [p.m.] certainly
doesn’t hurt it, but I also think this is a show that’s starting
to find its stride; it got better as the year went on,”
said Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP, CBS primetime.

Fox’s Raising Hope is another spoil of smart scheduling,
though its benefactor is surprisingly a rookie, the breakout
New Girl. The Greg Garcia comedy was only
a modest ratings draw in its first year, but the
success of New Girl, which is building on Glee,
is driving viewers to Raising Hope, up about
25% in the demo from its season-one average.

The result is a much more stable 9 p.m.
hour for Fox, with New Girl proving a more
compatible show to the Glee audience while
Raising Hope has given the network a much
better lead-in to its affiliates’ local news than
the failed Running Wilde did last fall, Preston Beckman, executive VP, strategic
program planning and research at Fox, said during premiere week.

But while scheduling has paid off for many sophomores,
it has hurt others, most notably Harry’s Law, which was
a midseason bright spot for NBC and the lone scripted
rookie renewed by the network last season.

Law’s move from Mondays at 10 p.m. to Wednesdays
at 9, where it has had to go up against the Modern Family
behemoth and flashy new X Factor, has done a number
on its ratings, which have sunk to an average 1.2 in adults
18-49. Likewise, creative changes to make the David E.
Kelley series less quirky and play more like a traditional
legal show have not paid off in added viewers.

ABC’s Body of Proof has shown some early vulnerability
from stiffer competition on CBS and a weaker Dancing
With the Stars
lead-in; Proof is down about 15%, although
it is improving the 10 p.m. time period from last year’s
soft Detroit 1-8-7. The CW’s Nikita has also seen expected
audience erosion in its move from Thursday to the lesser-watched
Friday in its second year, though the drop was not
nearly as precipitous as it could have been considering it
aired out of the net’s top-rated Vampire Diaries last season.

Fellow Friday series Blue Bloods has actually grown
slightly on the night in its second season on CBS. The
show is up about 10% over its freshman average, a sign
of the better chemistry and plot lines that one always
hopes come with time.

“It’s a big deal to get to a sophomore year on a show
these days,” Kahl said. “Any time a sophomore year
show comes back even close or above where it was its
freshman year, you’re really seeing a show that’s starting
to hit its stride.”

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com
and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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