When I asked a TV expert how to describe NBC's results this season, he offered two words: "The Titanic." Which may explain why the Peacock Network on Sunday announced 16 new shows for next season, kicking off four days when everything changes in TV. • This is up-front week for the 2012-13 TV season. • Defined as the week networks sell advertising for the next TV season, it's also a report card on the past and forecast for the future — revealing canceled shows, new series and scheduling. • With more advance leaks than ever, there's lots of room to gossip on new shows and weak spots. • So let's speculate away!
Announcing a new schedule Tuesday, the alphabet network has a blockbuster hit in Modern Family, its fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time worked well, and new drama Revenge (top) has decent ratings and better buzz.
But even as Desperate Housewives concluded Sunday after eight seasons, ABC has struggled to find new drama hits; already GCB, Pan Am, The Missing and The River have been canceled, signaling trouble in that genre.
Once-promising comedy Cougar Town is heading to TBS (hopefully, with a new name), while Tim Allen's renewed Last Man Standing didn't become a Modern Family-sized hit as expected. Worse, old hits such as Grey's Anatomy, Dancing with the Stars and Private Practice are sagging.
"Their biggest problem is aging hits," said Marc Berman, a media analyst with TVMediainsights.com. "They really need something to break out, especially in that 9 p.m. Housewives slot."
The network is expected to keep the comedy Happy Endings, the drama Body of Proof and the midseason shows Scandal (bottom) and Don't Trust the B--- in Apartment 23 — showing a strategically placed "B" sometimes makes the difference.
As the most traditional network, CBS is often the most stable, announcing its new schedule Wednesday.
The comedy 2 Broke Girls (top) survived allegations of racism and explicitly crude humor, while Person of Interest (bottom) also worked well on Thursdays.
But with success comes a high standard. So shows such as St. Petersburg-raised Patrick Wilson's medical/supernatural drama A Gifted Man is expected to be canceled, along with CSI: Miami, Rob, NYC 22 and Unforgettable.
"Found out via email … and not from the network," tweeted Wilson to fans Sunday. "Stay classy."
This network needs fresh comedy blood on Thursdays, and rumors abound that CBS will further challenge NBC's comedies there with a two-hour sitcom block of its own.
And it needs a more popular show on Sundays, where the creatively soaring The Good Wife doesn't draw enough viewers ages 18 to 49 (2 million out of a total 10 million viewers weekly).
"They have to fix Sundays," said Berman, who speculated CBS might move a popular drama such as Person of Interest to Sundays at 9 p.m. "The toughest thing about being successful is, you have very few holes to fill."
Announcing its schedule later today, Fox faces some serious issues.
Zooey Deschanel's New Girl (above) certainly was as successful as its "adorkable" pilot episode promised, but Simon Cowell's The X Factor suffered from the former American Idol judge raising expectations so much with his boasting that respectable viewership levels of 11 million people came off as a disappointment. (Hey Simon, I don't think giving Britney Spears $15 million to join the party is going to help.)
And Fox's biggest problem comes from its biggest hit. American Idol, notching its lowest-rated season since 2002, looks more vulnerable than ever.
"The median age (of viewers) for American Idol has gone from 32 in its first season, to 50 this season," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for Horizon Media in New York. "I think there's a lot of fatigue with viewers there. The show's no longer part of the pop culture fabric anymore."
Already, the network has canceled House, Alcatraz, Bones spinoff The Finder, animated comedy Allen Gregory, Breaking In, I Hate My Teenage Daughter and Terra Nova. But some of its most buzzed-about shows — Glee, Idol, The Simpsons — also have seen serious audience erosion, leaving critics to wonder how the network will plug so many holes in its schedule.
Last week, it announced pickups for four shows: The Mindy Project, a comedy starring Office co-star Mindy Kaling; The Mob Doctor with ex-My Boys star Jordana Spiro; a comedy about a "manny" Ben & Kate; and a comedy about kids jumping through hoops to earn their father's inheritance, Goodwin Games.
NBC on Sunday downplayed its many problems — having no big hits besides Sunday Night Football, seeing ratings for The Voice and Smash dip as the shows progressed — unveiling a fall schedule with seven new shows and 16 new series throughout the year.
Harry's Law; Awake; Are You There, Chelsea?; Bent; and BFF were all canceled. But low-rated, young-skewing comedies such as Community (above), Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock (bottom), Up All Night and Whitney made the cut, with Whitney and Community moving to Friday nights.
NBC executives couldn't say if 30 Rock or Community might be entering their final seasons, as had been rumored (they also couldn't say if executive producer Dan Harmon, who clashed with star Chevy Chase, would return as executive producer or a consultant). So why add more comedy — on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays — when critically acclaimed comedies are struggling?
"We're always trying to be broader," said NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, about a schedule which seems to focus on young-skewing comedies.
Singing show The Voice will air in the fall and spring, possibly with new judges for the second cycle and with their spinning chairs added to the show's "battle rounds."