November 9, 2012

THE SKED: “Chicago Fire” Kindles a Full Season Order

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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On Wednesday night, NBC aired a special episode of THE VOICE in the 8-10PM slot, thus giving CHICAGO FIRE a lead-in more than double the one it usually gets from SVU.  Not surprisingly, that perked Fire up more than half a ratings point to its highest number to date, a 2.2 that was a close 2d place in the 10PM hour.  The network has seized on that to issue a back-order to Fire, assuring its run for the rest of the season.

It’s unclear how NBC expects this to play out.  The Voice won’t be airing on Wednesdays again, other than occasional specials (this week’s Tuesday episode was displaced by election returns), and the Monday and Tuesday 10PM slots are firmly in the hands of Revolution and Smash.  So Chicago Fire will likely hardly ever have this kind of giant lead-in again, which means it will probably drop below a 2 rating again next week, and stay there.  The network’s decision to rush for a back order, rather than wait to see if last night’s increased sampling would have any aftereffect, suggests it didn’t want to know, and that the Dick Wolf-produced show just needed one scrap of good news to justify a full season.

The back order for Chicago, along with those for The New Normal, for Ben and Kate on FOX, Vegas on CBS and The Neighbors on ABC, demonstrate how low the bar is for “success” on network TV these days.  None of these shows have been doing better than the low 2s in the past few weeks, and most are in the mid-1s, yet all are returning this spring (Ben and Kate with a reduced back order).  Clearly, the networks don’t think they can do any better, and unless they can convince advertisers to start paying for viewers who watch episodes during the full week after initial airing, this continues to show the fraying of the broadcast network economic model.

NBC also ordered 5 additional scripts for WHITNEY, an order that doesn’t have any meaning until the show starts airing next week and has some ratings to its credit (or discredit).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."