October 2, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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So:  what do we know now that we didn’t know a week ago?

THE SWALLOWS AREN’T RETURNING TO CAPISTRANO.  Generally speaking, the TV season has a dynamic that repeats each year.  Every fall, viewers turn up in broad numbers for the launch of new series and return of old favorites, and as the season wears on and Daylight Savings Time kicks in, etc, viewership begins to slide… but then the audiences (minus a typical attrition of 5% or so) come back the next fall.  Not this year, at least not for a lot of series.  Here’s a partial list of returning series down more than 10% from their 2011-12 premieres:  Dancing With the Stars, Castle, the entire CBS Monday line-up (which had the excuse of being compared to Ashton Kutcher’s 2 1/2 Men debut a year ago), New Girl, Parenthood, Up All Night, The Office, Parks & Recreation, Private Practice, The X Factor, CSI, The Middle, Modern Family, CSI NY, Blue Bloods, Fringe, Family Guy, American Dad, The Amazing Race, The Good Wife, and even The Voice.  That’s two dozen hours of underperforming programming, and while the new spin is that DVR use is rising and the audience isn’t gone as much as time-shifting, DVR viewing still raises difficult issues of ad-skipping and isn’t the ideal form of viewing for networks or advertisers.  Some of these eyeballs are simply elsewhere, and they may not be coming back.

CBS IS FALLIBLE.  Elementary got off to a very good start last Thursday, and should be a solid fit with the rest of the night’s line-up.  Plus, CBS had the bulk of the returning shows that held up strongly, like the NCIS pair, The Big Bang Theory and Survivor.  But Partners didn’t look like much in its Monday debut, and Vegas, while winning its hour, did so in a very underwhelming way.  Made In Jersey is a Friday flop.  Worse, the big switch of 2 1/2 Men to Thursdays and 2 Broke Girls into its former Monday slot, a supposed win-win, is looking like not-so-much-not-so-much, as Girls seemed to drag down the rest of the Monday line-up and Men, while certainly far more successful than last year’s failed How To Be A Gentleman and Rob in that slot, still lost 30% of its Big Bang Theory lead-in.

THE VOICE HAS COATTAILS.  NBC has 2 bright spots on what’s otherwise been an abysmal fall launch:  Revolution and Go On, and both just happen to have The Voice for a lead-in.  It’s the first time literally in years that the network has had a show capable of launching satellites, and if the new drama and comedy can hold up, they might give the Peacock something besides football and The Voice itself to feel good about.

ABC IS AGING.  The move of Revenge to Sundays with Once Upon A Time as a lead-in looks like a win (although switching from soap to horror with 666 Park Avenue at 10PM doesn’t seem like a shift viewers want to make).  Grey’s Anatomy, god bless it, is still holding down the fort on Thursdays, and Modern Family is a champ.  But 3/4 of the Dancing With the Stars audience is now over 50, and Castle and Private Practice aren’t doing much better.  (And even if Last Resort manages to survive, which seems unlikely, it’s already skewing 2/3 over 50.)  CBS has a business model that works, but it’s not necessarily one to emulate.

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."