March 19, 2013


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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The Sked’s State of the Network Reports:  NBC, CBS and ABC

We already know quite a bit about the 2013-14 FOX network schedule, because it’s going to be very similar to this season’s.  FOX has already renewed its Sunday animation block, Bones, The Following, Raising Hope, New Girl, The Mindy Project, X-Factor, American Idol–and a Glee renewal is strongly expected once the network and its (in-house) studio work out their money issues.  So there are going to be few openings in the network’s line-up.

Stability makes some sense for FOX, which will come in second place this season only because CBS carried the Super Bowl–without that, Mitch Metcalf’s estimate would indicate a pitched battle between FOX (2.17) and CBS (around 2.13).  However, the mix of expiring veterans and swiftly declining hits suggest that the network will be in for some heavier lifting soon enough.

Let’s take a look night by night:

MONDAY:  If BONES isn’t entering its final season, that day isn’t far off.  The show has been a valuable position player for FOX, but lately it’s been hovering just above a 2 rating at 8PM, where it’s likely to be in 4th place once The Voice returns.  Creatively, too, the show has paired off most of its cast in strong and seemingly lasting relationships, robbing the series of some of its former rom-com zing.  THE FOLLOWING is a genuine hit, but it comes at a price:  Kevin Bacon won’t do more than 15 episodes per season, so FOX will have to fill the 9PM slot again in the fall, perhaps with a show that could take Bones‘ place the following season.

TUESDAY:  RAISING HOPE has been consistent but not strong with ratings in the mid-1s, and it’s a weak launching pad for a new 8:30PM comedy.  Whether or not it stays on Tuesdays, FOX may try to make it a satellite series to one of its stronger half-hour pilots.  At 9PM, even though NEW GIRL has tumbled badly from its heights last season, it’s the network’s only live-action comedy success, as well as being a (well-earned) critical darling.  The tough call for FOX is going to be what to do with THE MINDY PROJECT next fall.  At a 1.6 average, it shows little sign of being able to lead an hour itself, but the network would surely love to pair New Girl with a strong new comedy.  The clock could start ticking loudly for Mindy if it doesn’t show some strength in the fall.

WEDNESDAY:  The returns of X FACTOR and then AMERICAN IDOL were no-brainers, but for how long?  Idol‘s numbers have crashed in the past 2 seasons:  in 2010-11, it had an 8.8 average on Wednesdays, then last season it was at 6.2, and in recent weeks it’s fallen to the high 3s.  X Factor, meanwhile, has dropped from a 4.4 average last season to 3.0.  If those trajectories continue, FOX is just a season or two away from a genuine crisis, and how many fading divas are left to turn into judges?

THURSDAY:  Same issue.  2 years ago, Idol was at 7.7 on Thursdays, last year it was at 5.5, and this season it’s been in the high 3s (let’s do FOX the favor of ignoring–for now–the truly disastrous 3.0 it had last Thursday).  For its part, X Factor fell from a 4.2 average last season to 2.8.  Meanwhile, GLEE has lost almost half its 18-49 audience over the past 2 seasons.  None of these shows is doing badly enough to be replaced, but the key word missing from that sentence is “yet.”

FRIDAY:  KITCHEN NIGHTMARES does an OK if unexciting job at 8PM.  It was never clear why FOX renewed the low-rated and expensive TOUCH, especially with a move to barren Fridays, and now the show is certainly dead.

SUNDAY:  Barring some extraordinary change, next season will be the 24th and last for THE SIMPSONS, leaving a gaping hole on Sundays for FOX.  Even though it’s a shadow of what it used to be, The Simpsons has been an effective launching pad for satellite shows, and more importantly, it set the night’s tone and sparked its start.  Neither AMERICAN DAD nor BOB’S BURGERS are in its league (and rumor has it that THE CLEVELAND SHOW may be ending after next season as well), so those are going to be tough shoes to fill effectively. FAMILY GUY is also down, but it has a different economic model than The Simpsons because its cable and syndication deals are structured more favorably for studio 20th Century Fox Television, and its chief voice is show creator Seth McFarlane, who has a hugely rich deal from network and studio and isn’t going anywhere.

Next season is going to be a stable one for FOX… but watch out for 2014-15, when all bets will be off, and the network’s line-up may have to submit to major surgery.

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."