May 23, 2012


Wednesday nights this fall will look a lot like last year, with most of the returning programs performing at similar levels and no network making a big move (up or down) on the night.  FOX should win Wednesday again with The X Factor, with ABC and CBS locked in a close battle for second place.  NBC should remain mired in a distant fourth place, with little chance of breaking out.

FOX returns The X Factor performance episodes to Wednesday 8-10 pm this fall.  Although  X Factor failed to meet lofty expectations last year in its first season, it gave FOX a win on Wednesday nights, and we project the same result this season.  Notoriously competitive, Simon Cowell is unlikely to stop with his recent shake-up of the judging panel (Britney Spears and Demi Lovato replacing Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger).  No doubt many format and production tweaks are in store.  Even with The Voice moving into the fall season on Mondays and Tuesdays, we are giving X

Factor a slight increase in its second season, up 3% to a 3.8 rating with Adults 18-49 for the performance episodes.  It should be an interesting race between The Voice and X Factor for singing show bragging rights in the fourth quarter. 


CBS is playing it very conservatively on Wednesday, returning the entire night’s schedule intact.  Survivor, the godfather of reality television, returns at 8 pm with the 25th cycle of the show, this time in the Philippines with a mix of new and returning players.  With the other networks basically unchanged, Survivor should average a 3.2 rating, down a scant one tenth of a rating point from last fall.  Criminal Minds at 9 pm should increase a tenth of a rating point (to a 3.7) — it showed continued strength throughout the spring and it should walk all over the re-located Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which has never done well in the 9 pm hour.  At 10 pm, CSI will probably decline two tenths of a rating point to a 2.5, moving from outright possession of first place to a tie with ABC and its promising new drama Nashville.  CSI ratings were a bit erratic throughout this season, and that pattern will probably continue in 2012.  For the night, CBS should average a 3.1 rating, down an almost irrelevant 1% (with a slight increase at 9 pm outweighed by downticks at 8 and 10 pm).

ABC scheduled a new comedy and a new drama after its highest-rated program, Modern Family.  While we are not terribly optimistic about the comedy The Neighbors, there is great potential in the drama Nashville.  But first let’s take a look at the stable 8:00-9:30 comedies.  The Middle returns at 8:00 pm, most likely a 2.8 rating for original episodes from September through December (down one tenth of a rating point simply as a result of the natural aging process of series).  The second season of Suburgatory will probably match last fall’s levels at a 3.0 rating.  Normally, we would expect a sophomore surge for the comedy, but a rough spring (with the 8-9 pm hour stuck in the low-2s) limits our enthusiasm.  Also weathering spring declines, Modern Family drifted down to the low-4s in originals after averaging a 5.4 last fall.  The comedy should bounce back in the fall (when viewers watch more network television and disruptive repeats are scarce) but not quite to last fall’s level.  We are giving Modern Family a 5.0 on average in the fall, still a very good rating.  At 9:30, it’s up to The Neighbors to take full advantage of that precious lead-in.  Based on the materials available so far, Neighbors seems like an odd fit with Modern Family, a sort of reverse Third Rock From The Sun in which our suburban heroes are surrounded by friendly aliens pretending to be human.  The show has no marketable stars, although with a script by Crazy Stupid Love‘s Dan Fogelman, perhaps there’s more to it than we’ve seen at this point. The Neighbors should average a somewhat disappointing 2.8 rating (slightly below the 3.0 Happy Endings managed last fall).  At 10 pm, Nashville should tie CSI for the time period lead, something Revenge couldn’t quite do with a slightly higher lead-in.  Nashville has the potential to be a more mainstream, less campy soap than ABC has tended to air lately, with experienced TV leads in Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere and a musical angle (it won’t be surprising to see real country stars show up in cameos).  Nashville should average a 2.5 rating in the hour, with a lot of upside if The Neighbors exceeds our projection.  For the night, ABC should average a 3.1 rating, down 5% but tied for second with CBS.  

NBC can’t air The Voice every night of the week (no, really, NBC–you can’t), and after making enormous Voice-aided strides on Monday nights and decent progress on Tuesdays, NBC looks to be dead in the water on Wednesday.  It can’t rebuild everything at once so Wednesday remains a work in progress (or more precisely a disaster in progress).  The night opens at 8 pm with two brand new comedies, Animal Practice and Guys with Kids, the latest incarnation of “Happy Hour”.  Animal Practice is a single-camera comedy pegged on the notion of a vet (the talented Justin Kirk) who likes his patients more than their owners, and the level of humor we’ve seen so far involves a trained monkey riding a toy ambulance.  Guys With Kids is a multi-camera that feels reminiscent of Man Up–does any more need to be said?  Animal Practice will probably average a 1.8 rating at 8:00 (below the 2.0 average for Up All Night in that time period last fall), while Guys with Kids will drop to a 1.5 at 8:30 (not quite to the awful 1.1 for Free Agents but still very bad).  So the 8-9 pm hour should average about the same as last year.  Law & Order: SVU slides down to 9 pm in a repeat of a past failed experiment.  SVU should average a 1.6 rating, better than the 1.2 last fall for Harry’s Law but down significantly from the 2.1 it averaged at 10 pm in the fall.  At 10 pm, the new drama Chicago Fire will very likely decline a bit from its lead-in to a third-place 1.5 rating.  Chicago Fire will be compatible with SVU–it’s also produced by Dick Wolf, and will no doubt have his trademark style–but that style has come to feel increasingly old-fashioned and conventional, and is unlikely to bring in new young viewers.  The good news for NBC: it has stopped the bleeding on Wednesday, down only 2% from 8-11 pm last fall.  The bad news: the patient might have bled out, the 1.6 rating for original episodes makes it the lowest rated Sunday-Thursday night on network television.  But the really bad news is that another night might be on life support as well.  

More on that tomorrow when we forecast Thursday night ratings.  





Please keep in mind that these estimates for the new shows are based on the trailers produced for the advertiser upfront presentations.  As the actual pilots become available and the networks start their marketing campaigns for the new shows, we reserve the right to adjust our projections here and there.     

Check out ratings predictions for each night of the week this fall: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.