Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fox gives Fringe the back nine; some other shows not doing so well

Fox just gave "Fringe" a full season order, and hopefully the improvement shown in the most recent episode will continue throughout the rest of this year. After the jump, some thoughts on the pick-up, as well as the ratings struggles of some other Shows Of Interest in these parts, including "Chuck" and ABC's entire Wednesday lineup...

Fox appears to have learned its lesson with "Fringe." The pilot, debuting without an established lead-in -- not even Sunday football, which could have worked even with the show's length -- got mediocre numbers at best, but its numbers have gone up once it started airing after "House," and its retention of that lead-in audience is pretty good. I doubt you'll see Fox try debuting another series it has high hopes for without a lead-in from either "House," "American Idol" or football anytime soon.

(On the other hand, moving "House" to 8 o'clock has caused a drop of several million viewers from last year's pre-"American Idol" numbers, which creates one of those scheduling philosophy problems. "House" would definitely do better at 9, but that wouldn't help the show airing before it, and sooner or later Fox is going to need some hits that don't feature Hugh Laurie or Kiefer Sutherland.)

Meanwhile, the whole Re-Freshman Class of '08-'09 thing doesn't seem to be working out too well. "Chuck" debuted to its lowest numbers ever on Monday, and the entire ABC Wednesday lineup of "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" more or less tanked last night. (Airing after "Heroes," "Life" did better than its very weak Wednesday average from last year, but less than it did with its series premiere, when it had a big "Bionic Woman" lead-in, before everyone realized how bad "Bionic Woman" was.)

Now, almost everything in primetime is down from a year ago. More people are watching on a DVR delay, or on-line, or simply not watching at all. So lower overall numbers aren't necessarily bad, but in many cases, it's the context. "Chuck" finished third to "Dancing with the Stars" and the CBS comedies, but it was a distant third. (Though it was still ahead of "Sarah Connor Chronicles," which one site claims is already in danger of cancellation.) "Pushing Daisies" finished fourth in its timeslot -- behind "Knight Rider" -- "Private Practice" finished third at 9, and "Dirty Sex Money" only finished second at 10 because NBC for some reason renewed "Lipstick Jungle."

Now, part of the whole Re-Freshman phenomenon is that many of these shows probably wouldn't have been renewed if it hadn't been for the strike. "Chuck" probably would have, and maybe "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" because ABC has relationships with their creators. But most of them weren't doing that wonderfully in the Nielsens when they went off the air, so it's not like there was a big "Sopranos" or "Lost"-sized audience willing to wait nine months for another episode. And maybe in the next few weeks, we'll see some numbers tick up a bit as people remember, "Oh, hey, I kinda liked that show last year!"

"Chuck" already has a full-season order -- though that doesn't mean as much as it used to; in recent years, networks have either reduced or rescinded those back nine orders -- and things at NBC are so awful that I imagine they have far bigger problems to worry about. But if the hope was to relaunch all these shows to either the same or bigger numbers than they debuted with a year ago, those hopes have been very quickly dashed.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that while the shows in this re-freshman class were good, none of them had a chance to become great during their shortened runs. That being the case, I can see a lot of people might not have missed them enough to feel the need to come back after nearly a year off the air.

David J. Loehr said...

I remember when shows that hadn't done so well during the regular season would build up audiences over the summer through reruns. For instance, The Dick Van Dyke Show would probably not have survived if it hadn't been for summer reruns. (Nowadays, it would've been gone in six weeks, if that.) Many of the "classic" shows have survived that way; it's pretty rare for a show to debut to explosive ratings, like E.R. did.

These days, it's hard to sample a show (for free, on the air) that may have gotten some buzz. Sure, I can go find it on Hulu.com, but that's not factored into ratings and it's not making the same kind of ad revenue for the network. And if I get conditioned to watching on Hulu or wherever, or a Saturday rerun, then I'm probably not going to find a show in its regular time slot, I'm just going to look for it where I found it in the first place. (And forget about, ahem, other online sources...)

Maybe, NBC should have left Chuck on Mondays at 8 continuously. You didn't see it before, try it now. You saw it before and wanted to see it again? Or you told a friend? There it is, that's where we want you to watch it.

Hopefully, they'll consider the DVDs, iTunes, etc, when it comes to deciding these shows' fates.

Mo Ryan said...

Fortunately for NBC, Kath & Kim is going to really turn things around for the network.

Har har.

Nicole said...

I think the rerun idea is a great one. Instead of boring reality crap over the summer (or more than usual) they should have reaired Chuck because it was the type of show that could be watched again. The strike stopped some people from watching tv, but really the whole idea of taking the summer off is getting old, and should be revamped. PVR has changed the game and even if more time is spent outside in the summer, it's not like all time is spent outside, and catching up on things you missed in the initial run is still an idea that needs to be considered. While my parents do have a PVR, they would normally watch shows in the summer that they didn't watch initially because they will only PVR so much and if more than 2 good shows are on simultaneously, they won't make efforts to watch the third one. And they watch Dancing with the Stars. Had Chuck reaired in the summer, they would have watched a show that was "new" to them, and they would probably enjoy it, since they were fans of Alias. There are also the non PVR people that need to be considered as well.

Since that wasn't done, they need to switch Heroes and Chuck. Heroes is not deserving of that slot.

stevie said...

They should probably factor baseball playoffs into those numbers, at least last night's games. That is what prevented me from watching Pushing Daisies last night (although I watched Chuck live).

Matt said...

They did do some repeats of Chuck on Saturdays in the summer.

And I'm watching "Private Practice" right now, and it seems much improved. The medical dilemmas they're giving are very nice and Addison seems to have regained a spine rather than being a wet blanket.

Webeh said...

I'm really hoping that the ratings for the Wednesday line-up picks up for ABC. Mostly because I love Pushing Daisies and it would be too bad if the show were to not get a renewal.

Alan, I have a question. Do you have any idea how a major economic recession would likely effect the television industry? I know that in the classical Hollywood era, people flocked to movie theatres during difficult times to forget their current situation. Do you think the same will happen to television?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Fringe get a full season. Chuck and Pushing Daisies are both pretty good but they each have such strange premises that makes them very hard to get into if you weren't watching last season. Thats especially true of Daisies. My roommate is a big fan and tried to get me into it but he could not explain the pie maker's weird touch/life/death thing to me. I want to like it, it has such a cool look, but I feel like someone is reading me a children's story and I can't even follow whats happening. And Chuck won't do well without people making Heroes appointment tv, and that disappointing show is losing too many of its formerly loyal viewers (like me).

Jennifer said...

TV is falling off thanks to the strike, period. NO show is going to do spectacularly well this year. The networks should keep that in mind before they willy-nilly smack the cancellation buttons this year. Nothing is likely to be a kajillion-dollar hit.

Pamela Jaye said...

Oddly, moving House to 8 is having very weird effects on me - this week during House I *fell asleep.*

I guess it was just interesting enough to make me pay enough attention so that I turned off all the other (output) noise in my head. Grey's is good for that - but not on a first airing.

Chuck was okay. I still haven't gotten past ep 2 (or was it 3?) of Pushing Daisies cause I'm waiting for my brothere (who loves Kristin to death but still... I can't get him to finish last season of Brothers & Sisters either, but I don't care - give me Calista Flockhart any day - plus I love the way none of them can keep a secret)

I digress. Private Practice is brain candy. It fills you up, but... just for the hour. I archive it just in case, but it's esy to rip off the DVR and if I have to see a rerun of something, I think I'd prefer The Big Bang Theory.

That said, tonight I did two eps of 90210, so I'm going to go read your posts on those.(and then i'm going to keep wondering what happened with Kelly and Dylan (and Brenda and that song Brenda used to play all the time - or maybe it was soundtrack)

zodin2008 said...

First, I hope they are accounting for NBC.com, Hulu and DVR playbacks inb the ratings not just for the wonderful "Chuck", but for all series. The only way any show can be truly judged is if you take an average or a total number of all the ways people can see a weekly first run episode.

Second, the other problem no one's talked about is that the 8 PM hour on Mondays are cannibalizing the same young adult and young male demographic.

Sure, everyone's wives and girlfriends are watching "Dancing with the Stars" (except my wife, thank goodness...she's not interested in DWTS, which is so refreshing) but the CBS comedies, Terminator and Chuck are ALL aimed at the same demo.

I, myself am a fan of "Terminator", "How I Met Your Mother" and "Chuck". I have more than one DVR in my townhouse so I can actually record all three. I am a 33 year old male...you see the problem.

Both Chuck and Terminator are both suffering in the ratings...why is not obvious that these shows are so clearly competing for the exact same audience, even if one is more light hearted and the other is super serious.

Of course, since there is absolutely NOTHING to watch on Tuesdays (I can't stand "House" and I gave up on "Fringe" in the middle of episode #3), then along with "Heroes", I generally watch 2 of my Monday recorded shows on Tuesday night.

(also on Monday, I maybe the only Sepinwall blogger who actually likes "Worst Week" as well).

Mark B said...

I remember when shows that hadn't done so well during the regular season would build up audiences over the summer through reruns.

MASH, All in the Family, and Cheers, just to name a few. Today, all of them would be cancelled by November.

I think the rerun idea is a great one. Instead of boring reality crap over the summer (or more than usual) they should have reaired Chuck because it was the type of show that could be watched again.

Ideally, yes. But ratings for reruns are lower than what the networks think they can get for idiotic reality shows.

That may be short-sighted. I don't know why they don't want to "take the hit" in the summer if they can generate further interest for a show, and potentially higher ratings in the fall (once ratings actually "count" again).

Pamela Jaye said...

if they did this, they would have to pay residuals to everyone. Something that, if you read anything about the WGA strike, or the SAG negotiations, they really seem to be trying to find any way of getting out of doing that they can.

(it's a bit more complex than this, with licensing and studios but it all comes down to not wanting to pay a lot)

Josh said...

It's a good thing Seinfeld debuted back when they actually gave shows more than a few weeks to build up a fan base. That show's ratings were terrible all through the first, second, and third season.

And it only became one of the biggest shows in history.

David J. Loehr said...

if they did this, they would have to pay residuals to everyone. Something that, if you read anything about the WGA strike, or the SAG negotiations, they really seem to be trying to find any way of getting out of doing that they can.

They already include a specific number of airings per episode into the license fee they pay to begin with. Sometimes it's one airing, sometimes it's two airings, considering how they sometimes plug holes in the schedule (or Saturday nights) with reruns. But if an episode is only aired once or twice, they're actually not getting their money's worth.

It's only when they air an episode three, four, five or more times that they have to pay an additional license fee (ie, residuals). And really, compared to the costs of reality shows, it's a bargain when you weigh it against the potential upside of building newer and larger audiences for shows like these. They're all just searching for the next Survivor or Idol instead. It's almost penny wise and pound foolish.

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks David, for that additional information. I know I am not up on how airings are currently the standard when a show is licensed by a network (and you can re-word that sentence till it's accurate and makes sense)

However, if it *is* one airing (as you say it sometimes is) then my previous statement would apply.

I did notice that certain series (Boston Legal) seem to air only once on the network) and some (Grey's Anatomy) air three and four times. I'm also pretty sure that shows such as Sisters only aired most of their eps once, way back when (when it was common for series to rerun all eps during the summer) and guessed that it was due to the extreme serialization of the storylines

but as noted, that was a guess, and I'd love to know more; like what's standard or why certain shows only air once (I heard Boston Legal doesn't stream either. I haven't checked that out)

Pamela Jaye said...

(also on Monday, I maybe the only Sepinwall blogger who actually likes "Worst Week" as well)

ooh, do we get to have a name now? like Sepinwallovians or something?

I like the level of conversation around here (esp in the Mad Men posts). They are interesting and deep enough without being overwhelming like TWOP or childish like ... well... any number of places. and I don't have to worry about spoilers. (My House list has finally woken up and started conversing and the whole long conversation has spoiler headers all over it. drat!)

Pamela Jaye said...

And really, compared to the costs of reality shows, it's a bargain when you weigh it against the potential upside of building newer and larger audiences for shows like these.

I'm not sure the networks have the foresight to be able to even come up with that concept. The only things they have any faith in (it seems to me) are clones of whatever has already become a big hit. In other words, being business people, I guess, causes them to have a complete lack of imagination.
If they were running our country in the 1800s we'd still be riding horse and buggies and, well, we'd be reading newspapers (sorry Alan - then again, you'd have to be writing about who won at the county fair)

and yes, I know, our country's leaders were not the people who invented things (most of the time. there' had to be at least one)

David J. Loehr said...

I'm also pretty sure that shows such as Sisters only aired most of their eps once, way back when (when it was common for series to rerun all eps during the summer) and guessed that it was due to the extreme serialization of the storylines

That's a very good guess. Even then, serialized shows never reran well.

The rerun thing used to be a standard part of the initial license, but that started shifting a few years ago. I know that shows such as ER and Boston Legal reduced their license fees to stay on the air (and thus they became cheaper for the networks), which is probably why you only see episodes of those once on the network. The studio still does well, because the studio makes its network money from that license fee, and the network recoups that money (and hopefully more) by selling the commercial time. But the license fee for an episode is still lower than the actual cost of producing an episode, so the studio loses money until syndication or DVD sales. Once a show hits that point, the studio makes its money back. In theory.

It's all a little insane, but there it is.

Pamela Jaye said...

I know that Enterprise lowered its licensing fee in its last season (probably in order to actually get a 4th season) so that jives with what you are saying and makes sense as well, with the DVDs (and "syndication" (or what used to be syndication and is now often reruns on just one cable network))

Boston Legal is up and rerunning this fall, in more than one place. I haven't stopped to check where or why.