It's unlikely that much is going to change on Monday nights this fall in the pecking order of the broadcast networks' viewership and ratings, even with four new series in the primetime mix.
With ABC's ratings juggernaut Dancing With the Stars returning, along with the CBS comedy block mostly intact, those two networks are expected to once again be first and second both in viewers and the advertiser friendly 18-49 demo.
Fox is hoping to make inroads on the night by pairing its highly anticipated new sci-fi drama, Stephen Spielberg's Terra Nova, with veteran drama House. However, many media buyers are scratching their heads wondering why the network would put it up not only against the solid schedules of ABC and CBS, but also against Monday Night Football on ESPN, since Terra Nova may skew more male.
Media buyers point out that sci-fi shows do not have a great success rate in broadcast primetime to begin with, and putting Terra Nova in such a competitive time period could doom the show before it gets off the ground. That scenario spelled an early death for the Fox drama Lonestar last fall, which lasted only two episodes on Monday nights.
Here is a look at the night by time periods.
8 p.m to 9 p.m.
ABC's returning hit Dancing With the Stars (8-10 p.m.) is a ratings juggernaut. It averaged 21.9 million viewers and a 4.8 18-49 demo rating to win both its time period and the night this season, according to Nielsen data. Nothing is expected to derail it.
The CBS comedies from 8-9 include returning How I Met Your Mother (8.7 million viewers and a 3.5 18-49 rating) and new sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which not only had a hilarious pilot episode, but will fit into the comedy block perfectly leading out of How I Met Your Mother and leading into Two and a Half Men.
NBC will air singing competition show, The Sing-Off (8-10 p.m.), which is usually a replacement show in December, a move that was also questioned by media buyers because the show will go head-to-head with ABC's DWTS, a similar genre and audience. It may skew a lot younger, but it also has to compete with the CW's Gossip Girl at 8.
And then, of course, there's the questionable scheduling of Terra Nova on Fox.
9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Much has been written about Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen on CBS' Two and a Half Men (9-9:30 p.m.). Most media buyers believe that the move will succeed or fail based on how show creator Chuck Lorre integrates Kutcher into the series and how good the writing and story lines are.
Kutcher has had success in primetime before, on the long-running Fox sitcom That 70s Show, and has a following both from his former MTV reality show Punk'd and from his movies. In the 2008 film What Happens in Las Vegas, he played the type of character that could work well on Two and a Half Men. And he would bring in a somewhat younger audience and perhaps a new segment of viewers for the network. Men drew 12.7 million viewers per night with Sheen. Even if with Kutcher it draws 10 million it will be a success. At 9:30, CBS has second-year sitcom Mike & Molly which pulled in 11 million in its first year and a 3.5 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen. These shows are going to be tough to beat, albeit by DWTS.
Fox's House from 9-10 p.m. will be in its eighth and final season. It declined in the ratings last season but still drew a credible 10.2 million viewers and a 3.9 18-49 rating. Its ratings may be affected a bit by the success or failure of its Terra Nova lead-in, but at worst it will be a close third in the ratings beating the second hour of NBC's The Sing-Off.
The CW has a new drama at 9 p.m. but as with that network on all nights, it has to be reviewed in a vacuum because it's median age viewer is way younger than the other four networks. Hart of Dixie, however, has a shot to draw some older viewers. It stars Rachel Bilson as a young New York doctor who inherits a country practice in Alabama, where the townsfolk don't appreciate her lack of Southern heritage. The show has a mixed age cast and that could help it draw a broader audience.
10 p.m. to 11 p.m
NBC has new drama The Playboy Club at 10 p.m., but it is going to have as tough a time there as does Fox's Terra Nova at 8. The Playboy Club is a retro drama set in the 1960's but it has to go up against CBS' popular returning Hawaii Five-0 and ABC's veteran drama Castle.
Media buyers were cool to the lead character played by Eddie Cibrian and the story line in the pilot. And while NBC may be trying to capitalize on the popularity of retro cable shows like Mad Men, one media buyer pointed out that the number of viewers Mad Men gets on cable (averaging less than 2 million per episode) would lead to immediate cancellation on one of the Big Four broadcast networks. "If you want to emulate Mad Men, you are going to get Mad Men-type ratings," the buyer said.
CBS' Hawaii Five-0 averaged 11.8 million viewers and a 3.3 18-49 this season, while ABC's Castle, albeit leading out of DWTS and retaining only about 50 percent of its audience, averaged 11.3 million viewers and a 2.9 18-49. The Playboy Club is going to find it tough going to beat either of those two.