Last television season was tabbed the year of the comedy, with breakout half-hours such as 2 Broke Girls and New Girl. But one look at all the series that made it to a second year reveals a dramatically different picture.
Of the sophomore dramas that have returned thus far, all are posting ratings at or above their freshman runs. Among the comedies, only one, ABC’s Suburgatory, is in the black. And the reason for that is scheduling— Suburgatory is reaping the benefits of a new time period leading out of ratings behemoth Modern Family, while shows such as Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Up All Night and New Girl are in decline now that they are following lower-rated lead-ins in their sophomore years.
“The issue with the comedies is really placement,” says Billie Gold, VP/director of programming research at Carat, who notes that unless a show breaks out and wins an Emmy in its first year like Modern Family, “the only other way usually comedies will grow is if the night itself grows or its lead-in grows."
At the same time, networks have been propping up their dramas in year two, with ABC moving Revenge to Sundays to follow last year’s top new drama, Once Upon a Time, and CBS giving Person of Interest a much higher-rated lead-in with the move of Two and a Half Men to Thursday. Grimm and Once Upon a Time have managed to grow in their second year without any schedule changes, though both could be benefi ting from interest in the horror/fantasy genre (call it The Walking Dead effect).
The payback for strong sophomore dramas is not inconsequential. With Person helping launch the new Elementary, CBS is consistently winning Thursdays, the most lucrative night for advertising. The female-skewing, highindexing audiences of ABC’s Sunday night have given the net viable counterprogramming to NFL football on NBC. The year-over-year gains are also helping ABC and CBS build much-needed new drama assets to replace aging franchises Grey’s Anatomy and CSI, respectively.
“It’s extremely important that once a show shows that it can survive on your schedule, you really need to try to kick it into the next gear,” says Andy Kubitz, executive VP of program planning and scheduling at ABC. “In order to build long-term assets, you have to nurture shows in their second year—it’s almost as big a priority as launching them.”
The drama bumps are even more of a pleasant surprise in a year where longer-running dramas are down across the board. But the slumps for the sophomore comedies are not surprising or unexpected. 2 Broke Girls is missing the glow of Two and a Half Men, NewGirl declined steadily in the second half of its first year and Up All Night was a bubble show as it was.
If there is some good news for the sophomore comedies that may be hoping to snag the syndication deals that come with additional seasons, one programming acquisitions executive says that where in years past a 20% year-over-year decline would be troubling, in today’s new reality, syndicated programming buyers are more concerned with the absolute rating. That being said, the exec noted only one second-year show seems to be holding its own in that respect: CBS’ Person of Interest.
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