Just short of five weeks into the season, ABC’s Manhattan Love Story became the first new series to be canceled this fall. A single-camera comedy from the network’s sister studio, the show premiered soft then fell fast. Its Sept. 30 debut drew a 1.5 Nielsen live-plus-same-day rating among adults 18-49— just one-tenth of a point below what fellow ABC freshman comedy Selfie drew in its premiere a half-hour earlier. In its final broadcast Oct. 21, Manhattan Love Story drew a 0.7, down 36% from its Selfie lead-in. The death sentence came three days later.
ABC was also the first network to cancel a show last fall, pulling the plug on drama Lucky 7 a mere two weeks into the season—a move that was followed soon after by cancellations at CBS and NBC. But if the networks have been slower to swing their axes this season, they’ve also been strangely commitment-shy. No new show has yet received a renewal this fall. Last year, Fox had already ordered a second season of Sleepy Hollow by the time ABC’s Lucky 7 bet lost big.
With networks placing greater emphasis on delayed viewing and studio ownership, judging new fall shows is an increasingly murky science. But with more than a month of the season gone, B&C looks at which freshmen might make it to their sophomore years.
Manhattan Love Story notwithstanding, ABC has plenty to brag about this fall. How to Get Away With Murder is the season’s breakout hit, outperforming the next highest rated new show in live-plus-same-day through Oct. 26 by half a ratings point and in live-viewing- plus-three-days through Oct. 19 (the most recent week for which delayed viewing numbers are available) by a full point. The series has also been the linchpin of the network’s successful strategy of stacking three female-skewing Shonda Rhimesproduced dramas—Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Murder— opposite CBS’ Thursday Night Football package, which ended Oct. 23.
Black-ish, meanwhile, has been the lone bright spot among broadcast comedies this fall. Though it benefits from following Modern Family, TV’s second-highest-rated comedy, it is averaging 17% higher live-plus-same-day ratings in that time slot than the since-canceled Super Fun Night did in its first five episodes last fall.
The rest of ABC’s new fall slate hasn’t fared as well. Cristela is at least performing on par with fellow Friday-night multi-camera comedy Last Man Standing. Selfie, however, is averaging only two-tenths of a point more in live-plus-same-day and live-plus-three than Manhattan Love Story mustered. Drama Forever is in third place at 10 p.m. Tuesdays behind rival procedurals Chicago Fire (NBC) and Person of Interest (CBS) in live-plus-same-day and live-plus-three ratings.
The big story for CBS has been overall audience size, where the network has led all broadcasters for 11 of the last 12 seasons.
In total live-plus-same-day viewers, NCIS: New Orleans is by far the fall’s most watched new series, averaging 16.4 million. The next highest-ranking show is Scorpion at 12.3 million. Both are among the top seven new shows in live-plus-same-day and live-plus-three 18-49 ratings—not bad, but not crushing the competition the way they do in total viewers. Stalker lags behind CBS’ other new dramas, averaging 9.4 million viewers, but leads its 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot in 18-49 ratings and total audience.
Then there’s Madam Secretary. The political drama averages 12.1 million total viewers live-plus-same-day, 7% more than How to Get Away With Murder—whose average live-plus- same-day 18-49 rating is 117% greater than Madam Secretary’s. In live-plus-three demo ratings, Madam Secretary doesn’t even crack the top 10 new shows. CBS may be experienced in selling larger, older-skewing audiences to advertisers, but the network finished third in the 18- 49 demo race last season. Madam Secretary won’t help change that.
The story is short and relatively sweet for The CW, which premiered only two new shows this fall—one of which, The Flash, has been an outsize success for the network, whose ratings standards are more modest than the other broadcasters’. The Flash premiere was the most watched telecast in CW history in liveplus- seven numbers, drawing 6.8 million total viewers. This season it is the network’s top show in most metrics and the most recent of a growing number of male-skewing CW series.
Like The Flash, Jane the Virgin was given a full-season order Oct. 21, but its success is more debatable. At 0.5 live-plus-same-day and 0.8 live-plus-three, Jane is the lowest-rated new show of the fall. But it has improved the network’s performance in the Monday 9 p.m. time slot and has performed well among underserved Hispanic audiences. It has also been a rare critical darling for The CW.
The good news for Fox is Gotham. The Batman prequel averages fewer than one-tenth of a point less than Scorpion and Black-ish in live-plus-same-day ratings, and leaps ahead of both shows in live-plus-three to rank as the second-best new series in the demo.
The bad news is everything else. Before Manhattan Love Story was canceled, Fox quarantined unscripted series Utopia on Friday nights and trimmed the order for comedy Mulaney. Limited series Gracepoint, facing competition from Thursday Night Football and Scandal, never gained traction with men or women. Teen-targeted drama Red Band Society, from ABC and Amblin, has shown significant gains from live-plus-same-day to live-plusthree, but starting from such a low base that they hardly seem to matter—especially for a show Fox doesn’t own.
Even Gotham comes with downside. When longtime 20th Century Fox Television chiefs Gary Newman and Dana Walden gained oversight of Fox Broadcasting in July, it was with the goal of creating greater synergy between the studio and network. But Gotham is produced by Warner Bros. If its success sustains, Newman and Walden could spend the next few years building network schedules around a rival studio’s franchise.
NBC has, so far this season, maintained its status as television’s No. 1 network in the 18- 49 demo. It has done so without much help from its new series.
Single-camera comedy Marry Me has enjoyed a lead-in from The Voice on Tuesday nights, averaging a 2.1 live-plus-same-day rating across its first two episodes. But on Thursday nights, Bad Judge and A to Z have foundered. Neither show— the former featuring a rare-for-comedy female lead, the latter an unabashed romance—has benefitted from being scheduled opposite Scandal, broadcast’s strongest drama with women viewers.
The Mysteries of Laura received a full-season order Oct. 28—a vote of confidence so far denied NBC’s comedies and Friday-night drama Constantine, which premiered Oct. 24. But the procedural appears to benefit from weak time slot competition Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Its 1.7 live-plus-three rating is third worst of all new dramas, barely edging out Fox’s Red Band Society and Gracepoint, both of which start from much lower live-plus-same-day bases.