Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Good Wife Review: "Hitting the Fan" - How to Kick Ass, Take Names, and Reboot

Will is not pleased with Alicia's decision in "The Good Wife"

“Hitting the Fan” may have been the 94th episode of The Good Wife, but it was a pilot in every way, shape, and form.  Within the fabulous first 15 minutes, most of the characters and conflicts are established, and the show sets out on a thrilling hour of twist and turns, crosses and double-crosses as two law firms try to kill each other in one of my favorite episodes of this television year.  And the most amazing part?  I had never seen a single second of the show before Sunday night.

It’s not that I hadn’t wanted to watch The Good Wife.  After all, it is the last, real “prestige drama” on network television.  And though it has been a few years since the show was the last broadcast series nominated for a Best Drama Emmy, it still has that air of being the last of its kind, from a time when shows like Boston Legal and The West Wing dominated the awards discussion.  But there’s a lot of great television on these days, so it’s difficult to pick up a show in its fifth season that seems always to be on the brink of cancelation.  But last night’s episode received a lot of hype as a reboot of the show, so I tuned in and it was worth all of the hype.

Warning: I’m going to get deep into the plot here for a few paragraphs, even discussing some parts beat-by-beat, but it’s important because I’m trying to demonstrate how well this show takes an existing world, opens it up for new viewers, and completely envelops them.  It is really fantastic work.

What stands out in “Hitting the Fan” is how quickly the writers and director James Whitmore (more on him later) are able establish the action and the relationships.  We open with a publicist trying to pitch a campaign of “stability” to Will, the main focus of the first act.  It’s a wry bit of dramatic irony for the longtime viewer who is probably well aware that things are about to, well, look at the episode’s title.  But this is just a brief apéritif before the meal begins when another lawyer walks in and lays everything out in one sentence: “Alicia and Cary are leaving the firm and they’re taking clients our with them.”

Bam!  Not ten seconds in and the entire conflict is laid out.  Will and Diane versus Alicia and Cary.  We don’t yet know who to root for or if there are good guys and bad guys in this equation, but everything is put out on the table. 

Then, in a marvelous bit of visual storytelling, as Will walks through the office we get two brief (less than a second each) flashes of a brunette woman – first, smiling at the camera under bed covers; second, just smiling at the camera.  In less than a second, the show has told us that Will and Alicia are-or at least were-lovers.  This is not just a professional betrayal, but a personal one as well. 

Remember, I’ve never seen this show before and yet, within the first two minutes, I know all of the major players and what they have at stake in the story.  If only more actual pilots could be structured this way.

When Will finally reaches Alicia’s office he asks such a simple, mild question that it actually made me laugh: “You’re leaving?”  It’s such an understated query and Josh Charles underplays it so well that Alicia’s naïve response, “What?  No I just got here” is on point and hilarious as well.  The terror and confusion that slowly spreads across her face as she absorbs the true import of Will’s question tells me everything I need to know about why Julianna Margulies has been nominated for three Emmys for this role and won once.  You see every question that crosses her mind in those brief few seconds.  “Oh God, does he know?  He can’t know.  What does he know?  Who told him?  Who else knows?  What do I do now?”  All of that is right there in a few wordless seconds.

What follows (at least after Will’s tirade seen above) is a classic caper, as the firm settles on two sides, the departing lawyers try to take what they can with him and Will tries to ferret out the opposition.  We get dueling restraining orders, a pair of double-crosses, and the bitchiest bitch hand in the history of bitch hands.

The only part of the episode I struggled with was Alicia’s husband, Peter, and the ways in which he enters the story.  Obviously, there’s a lot of back story here that I don’t know, but for the purposes of the episode, he kind of comes in as a deus ex machina to solve the new firm’s new problems and win them the big client they need to succeed.  It would have been nice to see Alicia build this on her own from the start, rather than require her husband to save the day for her, but that’s such a minor quibble in an otherwise fantastic episode.

What amazes me most about “Hitting the Fan” is how much it trusts the viewers.  This is clearly designed as a reboot of the series or a second pilot.  Names are stated or repeated a few more times than you would normally see an episode that’s not trying to draw in new viewers and the episode is entirely self-contained.  But they still drop us into the middle of the action and basically say “keep up.”  Characters are introduced quickly then brought back later.  Past events are referenced in a way that might slip by somebody not paying attention.  For example, Alicia gets her restraining order from a judge Will apparently pissed off in a previous episode.  They don’t lay out the whole situation, but enough information is given so that the new viewers understand what’s going on. 

More television pilots should be like this.  So many pilots today are so obsessed with establishing their premise or making sure viewers don’t get lost that they sometimes forget to be interesting or entertaining.  Sleepy Hollow is another good example of pilots that get it right.  There’s less than five minutes of exposition and then we’re on to the action.

If you’ve been wavering about picking up The Good Wife or wanting to catch up on Netflix first, let me assure you, “Hitting the Fan” is an excellent time to get on board.  I can’t say that it’s a show that will enter my regular rotation, simply because Sunday nights are already stuffed with quality television, but I’m certainly going to try to keep up, because it really is a great television show and one of the best on broadcast television.

A couple of spare thoughts –

You may not know James Whitmore’s name but you’ve undoubtedly seen his work.  He’s a journeyman director whose work I first saw during his stint on the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but he’s directed for dozens of series over the last three decades including 21 Jump Street, Quantum Leap, 24, Dawson’s Creek, NCIS, and a host of others.  He hasn’t gotten the attention that some of the acclaimed cable directors like Michelle McLaren and Rian Johnson have.  Nor has he gotten the opportunity to transition into feature film work like the Russo brothers or Alan Taylor, who are directing the upcoming Captain America and Thor movies, respectively.  But he’s got an immense résumé of really good work and this just might be his best (though I’ll always have a special place in my heart for “The Zeppo”).

“We’re coming after you: all your clients.  Every single one we worked to make happy while you swept in at the last minute to take credit.  We’re taking them.  And then you know what you’ll have?  A very nice suite of offices.”

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Masters of Sex Review: "Catherine" - Sex Is Terrible

Caitlin Fitzgerald is magical in "Masters of Sex"

Man.  If ever there was an episode of television dedicated to proving just how desperately the world needs Masters and Johnson and yet, at the same time, demonstrating that nobody should ever think about, talk about, or consider having sex ever again, this is it.  Because, while the last four episodes have been all about exploring the pleasures and positives of sex, “Catherine” deals with all the worst bits.

The two halves of this episode are so tonally different that it’s really impossible to discuss them together, so let’s start with the latter half, where Libby loses her baby.  It’s an absolutely brutal sequence, made all the more tense by Henry’s decision to escape his mother’s watchful eye.  It was a conflict that had been brewing all episode, with the kids now regularly spending time with their father.  But Virginia’s frantic search for Henry mirroring Libby’s desperate pleas for Bill to act like her husband and not her doctor is painful to watch. 

Bill’s need to maintain a clinical detachment from his wife, to be the doctor and not the spouse is so convincing that it took me until the end of the hour, and Bill’s breakdown in front of Virginia, to realize that he actually did care about his unborn child.  It was just fantastic work by Michael Sheen throughout the episode.  It shouldn’t be terribly surprising, given how detached Bill was from even the process of making the baby (as Libby pointedly reminds him heading into the surgery), but that need for clinical disinterest in the face of sex and childbirth is apparently pathological and is a real danger to his marriage.  His wife needs a partner, not a doctor.  That Bill needs to shut himself in his office and close the eyes of the only person with him in order to express his emotions does not bode well for his ability to create any kind of close relationship.

What’s most remarkable is how successful the episode’s midpoint tonal shift is because the first half of the episode is a jaunt through all the ways in which sex the most ridiculous, terrible thing ever invented.  From the naïve “religious” couple (who take the Biblical phrase “lie together” a little too literally when it comes to baby-making) to Dr. Langham’s immediately gif-worthy cries of “Why won’t my dick work!?” nobody is getting laid this week.  Nobody, that is, except for Haas, who learns the unfortunate lesson of the Vicky Mendoza Line.

Yes, I'm citing "HIMYM" in a "Masters of Sex" review.  Deal with it.
You see, Vivan is crazy.  At least, that’s the only explanation I have for a woman who convinces a man (and herself it seems) that she’s not interested in a relationship, only wants to have fun, fails to tell him that she’s never actually “had fun” before, and then confronts him later with declarations like “You have my love and devotion” and “We were meant to be together.”  Yikes.  I actually felt bad for Ethan, considering that he finally seemed to find a woman who he didn’t have to convince himself was Virginia and who seemed to share his desire for a romance-free sexual relationship.  That she’d immediately turn clingy after their first time, despite the very apparent awfulness of their sex is just a little too clichéd for my tastes. 

“Catherine” was the best episode of the series thus far because it perfectly managed to blend the humor and horror of sex and its consequences.  It is equal parts humorous, humiliating, and horrifying.  That the show is capable of blending all these emotions into a single hour is a testament to how strong its creative core is.

A couple of spare thoughts –
I don’t know if I mentioned it enough above, but Michael Sheen and Caitlin Fitzgerald are absolutely incredible in this episode: Fitzgerald as Libby desperately pleads with Bill to just be her damn husband for once (“Right here, right now, I am your wife.  And I want the truth.”) and Sheen first playing Masters’s veneer of stoicism and later his complete breakdown.  Amazing work all around.

I wonder how much of Henry’s desire to leave Virginia was fed to him by his dad.  We don’t see George at all, but the episode opens with the kids returning from his apartment and Henry immediately upset with Virginia.  Then again, it’s entirely plausible that he just wants to be with the parent who is actually home on a regular basis, instead of the parent who is constantly working.

“You break it, you buy it.”

“It wouldn’t be a bell curve if everybody was at the top.”

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ratings Roundup - Almost "Almost Human" and the Troubling Tenure Twos

I love television ratings.  I love what they tell us about individual shows, the networks, and the industry in general.  My intention with this weekly article is to take a look at the week in ratings and prognosticate about their future and the health of each network.   Ratings presented here are the Adults 18-49 rating, which represents the percentage of adults between 18 and 49 watching a particular program. 

Television syndication is incredibly boring to talk about in any kind of long-form discussion, but it’s very important for the futures of a handful of shows airing right now, so I’m going to try to summarize it as quickly and as painlessly as I possibly can.  You see, the most lucrative aspect of television production is syndication, wherein a production company sells its shows to cable networks or broadcast affiliates to run in repeats.  Do you watch The Big Bang Theory repeats on TBS, Family Guy repeats on Cartoon Network, or NCIS repeats on USA?  That’s syndication.  It’s an incredibly lucrative business (upwards of $2-3 million per episode nowadays), especially when a show has enough episodes to be “stripped,” essentially running episodes in the same timeslot every day.  The old threshold for stripped syndication was 100 episodes but today it’s typically 88 episodes, meaning that a series that runs four full seasons (at 22 episodes per season) will have enough episodes for syndication.

Where things get really interesting is when a show is earning cancelation-worthy ratings at the end of its third season.  The network that airs the series may want to cancel it, but the production company that makes the show has a huge incentive (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of incentives) to make 22 more episodes.  In these cases, the production company will often give the network a steep discount on the license fee for the show in order to get those extra episodes made.  The most famous example of this is probably ‘Til Death, which was canceled less than a month into its third season, but surprisingly renewed when Sony (the production company) made Fox an offer it couldn’t refuse.  In fact, this syndication-driven television economy has become so common that it’s virtually unheard of to see the cancelation of a series that is within one full season of syndication.

The corollary to this development is that networks now face a much more difficult choice when it comes to their sophomore series, for renewing a show in its second full season is essentially giving it a two season pickup akin to the academic decision of tenure, wherein universities must decide whether to give a professor a lifetime job, or terminate them.  Which brings us to the “Tenure Twos,” what I call the shows in their second seasons that are pulling borderline ratings that, while not necessarily worthy of cancelation by themselves, will make a network think twice about renewal when it’s extremely likely to be a two-season deal.  Each network has a sophomore series sitting near (but not at) the bottom of its ratings that will force a tough decision come May.

The cast of "The Mindy Project," though it'll probably change tomorrow
Fox –
The Mindy Project is Fox’s Tenure Two show this year.  Mindy struggled a bit last spring, but still managed to snag a renewal.  This year, however, it debuted weak and just went down from there, the past two weeks earning ratings below even the critically-reviled Dads, which just this afternoon received an unexpected full-season pickup, indicating that Fox really enjoys being in the Seth MacFarlane business. 

The magic number for scripted series renewal is usually 80%.  That is, a show (unless it airs on Fridays) typically needs to draw 80% of the network average ratings in order to be renewed.  This is because networks never cancel half of their shows, so even being a little below average is okay.  The Mindy Project so far this year is drawing 69.8% of the network average.  Exacerbating the problem is that, while Fox’s comedies have been struggling, its dramas (or rather its hour-long shows, including Glee) have been doing pretty well, meaning that Mindy is now the lowest rated show on the network.  Now, I’ll usually predict a low-rated veteran to be renewed over a low-rated freshman, but will Fox really commit to two more seasons of Mindy at this level?  I have a hard time seeing that happening, so Mindy likely needs either to make a big run or for some more shows to fail.

Moving away from The Mindy Project, Fox gave us the strangest news of the week when, on Wednesday, it announced that the premiere of Almost Human was being moved.  Originally scheduled to debut on November 4th with the return of Sleepy Hollow after that show’s brief hiatus, Fox pushed Human’s debut back two weeks, giving it a two-night premiere, with the first episode following a late NFL game on November 17th and the second episode debuting the next night.  The move also allows Sleepy Hollow to have two more weeks with its Bones lead-in.

The move, in and of itself is actually a good one.  What is so confusing is that Fox waited so long to make this decision.  In fact, it came so abruptly that Fox’s advertisers working the World Series didn’t get the memo, causing them to run an ad behind home plate of the first game still promoting the show’s November 4th debut.  Nothing has changed for Fox in the last month.  Why they waited so long to make this completely sensible decision is beyond me.

The World Series is back and once again giving a temporary boost to Fox’s ratings.  The network could really use a long series, though, to get them back to even.  As it is right now, the network is still down 5% over last fall, keeping them in last place for the moment.

"Revolution's" logo is the best part of "Revolution"
NBC’s troubling Tenure Two show is Revolution.  It was a monster hit last fall, debuting to huge ratings airing after the first fall run of The Voice.  But the show couldn’t sustain its high numbers, falling throughout the season especially after its return in the spring.  NBC moved the show to Wednesday night this year, forcing it to survive on its own and, while it has done okay, it’s only barely breaking the aforementioned 80% mark at 86.1%.  It’s also not doing a very good job at providing a lead-in for SVU, which has already lost half its premiere audience.  Now, SVU’s struggles are as much do its timeslot as anything else (it would likely be much better served airing at 9:00 instead of 8:00) but Revolution certainly isn’t helping matters. 

In other NBC news, the network’s desperate attempt to save Sean Saves the World and The Michael J Fox Show was a disaster in its first week.  As I mentioned last week, NBC decided to put Parks and Recreation on hiatus for most of the rest of the fall, instead airing The Voice and SNL specials in its stead.  Well, this week’s repeat of The Voice notched a 1.3 rating, the exact same number that Parks and Rec had been putting up on its own.  This led, obviously, to Sean and Fox pulling the exact same ratings that they did last week, airing after Parks and Rec and the now canceled Welcome to the Family. 

NBC is still in first place, and they’re still up from last year.  But it’s tough watching their Wednesday and Thursday lineups tank so badly, especially when NBC Thursday has traditionally been the night of “Must Watch TV.”  Hopefully, NBC can get something figured out for next year, but for this season it seems to be a lost cause.

"Nashville" has a lot of terrible images on GIS.  This is the least bad one.
ABC is in an extremely strange position right now.  The other networks have made extension/cancelation decisions on the vast majority of their new shows, with the lone exception being NBC’s Sean Saves the World (I don’t count CBS’s Hostages which is certain to be canceled though it hasn’t been already).  ABC, on the other hand, has only made two decisions: giving a full-season order to SHIELD and canceling Lucky 7.  Every one of its other new shows is still in limbo. 

Since ABC has been so reluctant to make decisions on its shows, I figured I would use this space to give them a hand.  Wonderland is dead in its current home.  Betrayal is dead no matter where it ends up.  So why not swap the two or, at the very least, cancel Betrayal and let Wonderland air where it was always meant to: with parent Once Upon a Time on Sunday nights.  As is, both shows are sure to be canceled after 13 episodes, if not earlier.  They might as well try to save one of them. 

As for ABC’s comedies, The Goldbergs, Super Fun Night, and Back in the Game have all pretty well stabilized, so it makes sense to give them all full-season orders.  Whether Super Fun Night stays in the prime post-Modern Family timeslot is up for debate.  Personally, I think The Goldbergs would do far better there (or at least is more compatible), so ABC should switch those two in January.  Unfortunately, Trophy Wife’s ratings aren’t worthy of a back-nine order, but it’s such a good show that I’d love to see ABC let it air its first 13 at least.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the show canceled, though.

ABC actually has two Tenure Two shows: Nashville and The Neighbors.  The latter is a difficult show to evaluate since it airs on Friday nights.  But all you probably need to know is that its ratings are currently worse than the ratings for Malibu Country, the series that aired in its timeslot last year and was canceled in May.  Nashville, on the other hand, is just straddling that 80% line at 79.4% of the network average.  The show does air at 9:00, which is a tougher timeslot than normal, but unlike the other networks, ABC doesn’t really have as much trouble at 9:00 (see Scandal and Castle), so that’s unlikely to be much of an excuse for Nashville.

It’s easy to look at ABC and feel bad for the last place network.  But what gets me is that they’re really not in that bad of a position.  They just lack that one big event series that they can put on for 3-4 hours per week.  NBC has The Voice and Sunday Night Football.  Fox has The X-Factor and American Idol.  CBS just has a lot of highly rated shows.  ABC’s series aren’t that poorly-rated, but neither do they crack the top ten much.  Until they find such a show, it’s unlikely that ABC will be able to move out of fourth place.

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller in "Elementary."  No joke, just awesome.
Elementary is, perhaps, the most intriguing of the Tenure Twos.  This was the show that likely didn’t reach CBS’s expectations last year, especially after the network gave it the post-Super Bowl spot.  But it still pulled in decent ratings, especially given its 9:00 timeslot, by far the worst time for CBS shows to air.  This year its lead-in has been down thanks to the departure of Person of Interest for Tuesday night but that still doesn’t explain why it fell to a 1.5 two weeks ago. 

What has surprised me most about the Tenure Twos (and likely explains their struggles) is that their ratings this fall have basically been on par with where they finished last spring.  Most shows see their best ratings in the fall, drop throughout the spring, then rebound a bit the next fall to start the cycle all over again.  For instance, Modern Family earned a 3.3 in its penultimate episode last season, debuted to a 4.2 this year and has stayed in that same 3.9-4.2 range since.  The Tenure Twos, on the other hand, have experienced no such fall bump.  In its most recent episode, The Mindy Project pulled the exact same 1.3 rating that it got in its last three episodes last year.  Revolution finished last season on a 1.9 and returned to a 1.8.  Nashville received the smallest of bumps (from 1.9 to 2.0) but has dropped forty percent from there.  And Elementary has only barely been able to maintain the 1.8-2.0 ratings it was earning last spring. 

Perhaps that’s the key to success on the broadcast networks: build from spring to fall.  Most shows are going to have worse ratings in the spring than they do at the season’s beginning.  That’s the nature of television.  But the shows that are successful are those that can rebound the next year, to start the drop all over again.

Season to Date Network Rating Averages (Adults 18-49) –
NBC – 2.79 (Up 1.8% YTD, Up 0.8% Week-to-Week, Down 12.7% from Premiere Week)
CBS – 2.10 (Down 6.9% YTD, Down 1.9% Week-to-Week, Down 29.0% from Premiere Week)
ABC – 2.05 (Down 3.6% YTD, Down 2.4% Week-to-Week, Down 23.3% from Premiere Week)
Fox – 1.98 (Down 4.7% YTD, Up 3.0% Week-to-Week, Down 10.0% from Premiere Week)

New Renewals, Pickups, and Cancelations –
Dads – Full-Season Order

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ratings Roundup - A "Super" Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the CBS Comedies

I love television ratings.  I love what they tell us about individual shows, the networks, and the industry in general.  My intention with this weekly article is to take a look at the week in ratings and prognosticate about their future and the health of each network.   Ratings presented here are the Adults 18-49 rating, which represents the percentage of adults between 18 and 49 watching a particular program. 

Well that was close.  We almost made it an entire week without any renewals, cancelations, or pickups being made and this was going to be a very short article.  Thankfully, Friday brought with it a flurry of activity, including a bunch of back-nine orders for CBS and a pair of cancelations at NBC. 

This picture really makes me wish Margo Martindale was still on "The Americans"

As always, we’ll start with the good news, and there was plenty of it to go around at CBS.  All of the network’s comedies that are still airing (RIP We Are Men) received full-season orders.  That means we’ll be getting full seasons of Mom, The Millers, and The Crazy Ones.  None of the orders are particularly surprising, given the relative performance of the shows, though it’s weird to see a pattern developing of not just bad news, but all news about renewals and cancelations coming out on Friday afternoons.  Typically Fridays are reserved for news you want to bury over the weekend.  CBS should be shouting these pickups from the rooftops, but instead they’re whispering it in the corner.

On the side of the bad news, CBS is still struggling a bit overall.  The big move of Person of Interest has thus far been a half-success.  That Person of Interest has stabilized a previously problematic timeslot is obviously good.  But the 8:00 comedies put on in its place haven’t been able to replicate its ratings on Thursdays.  They also might be having a slight negative impact on Elementary, though I’m willing to bet its struggles are its own.

The biggest problem CBS is facing right now, though, is on Sunday nights, where The Good Wife and The Mentalist are falling to incredibly low numbers, to the level of Hostages, even, which everybody knows is going to be canceled before the end of the year.  Both of those shows have been kept alive in recent years because of syndication economics, but it’s going to be a tough argument to keep them on the air past this season.  CBS Sunday has been falling for several years, no matter what shows have been on, so it will be interesting to see how the network tries to fix things on Sunday next year.

It just wasn't meant to be for Blair Underwood and "Ironside"
With the good news out of the way, it’s time for the bad news.  NBC announced on Friday that Ironside and Welcome to the Family have both been canceled.  They’ll be replaced in January by Chicago PD (the Chicago Fire spinoff) and the return of Community, respectively.

 Furthermore, NBC appears desperate to save Sean Saves the World and The Michael Fox Show, as it’s pulling Parks and Recreation for most of the rest of the fall in order to run a number of The Voice and SNL specials.  There was a lot of sturm und drang among Parks and Rec fans lamenting the crazy scheduling, but it really shouldn’t be a concern.  At this point in its life, the show is scheduling spackle for NBC that they can air at any time with little fanfare or promotion and still draw a decent (for them) rating.  NBC is obviously going to sink is resources and efforts into saving its new shows.  But if they can’t beat Park and Recreation’s numbers, it will be back next year.

With the exception of that bit of chaos, NBC was fairly stable this week.  Sunday and Monday are still doing spectacularly.  Tuesday is pretty good.  Wednesday is struggling but not nearly as much as Thursday.  The big questions now are whether The Blacklist and Chicago Fire can maintain their ratings as The Voice enters its annual downturn and what Grimm and Dracula can do when they return Friday.

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is turning into one of my favorite comedies.
Fox –
The last bit of news announced on Friday was actually good news.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine was picked up for a full season and was chosen as the other program (along with New Girl) that Fox is going to air after the Super Bowl.  It’s obviously good news for Nine-Nine, though I question how much of a boost the show will get from the Super Bowl.  The last time a network aired a pair of comedies after the Super Bowl, American Dad lost more than a third of The Simpson’s audience.  Obviously, people will watch.  But I don’t think Fox can expect the kind ratings for Nine-Nine that it got last time they aired the Super Bowl, when Glee drew almost 27 million viewers and an 11.1 rating.

In other news, Fox’s Tuesday comedies continued their decline, with even New Girl falling under a 2.0 rating.  I’m not sure how Fox can continue airing two hours of comedy on Tuesday nights, though I’m also not sure what else they could air instead.

The MLB playoffs have given Fox a slight boost over last season, but it’s really not a lot at this point.  They’ve got a legitimate hit in Sleepy Hollow, but it will end in January or February.  If The Following doesn’t come back strong and Almost Human stumbles out of the gate, they could be facing some serious problems in the spring.

No real news for ABC, but Kerry Washington is hosting the next SNL, so Scandal gets the pic.
 There wasn’t much news out of ABC this week, which is both good and bad for the network.  While it means that nothing other than Lucky 7 has had poor enough ratings to merit cancelation, it equally means that nothing other than SHIELD has had good enough ratings to merit a full-season pickup. 

ABC’s biggest problem so far has been stability.  None of their new shows have stabilized at ratings that are really worthy of back-nine orders.  The Goldbergs has been dropping 15-30% every week, Super Fun Night has fallen about 20% in the last two weeks, and Wonderland fell almost 30% from its already weak launch.  The shows that have stabilized, have done so at either low (Back in the Game), really low (Trophy Wife), or abysmal (Betrayal) ratings levels.

Probably, and unfortunately, the biggest news for ABC was the big drop in viewers for the second week of Wonderland.  Its debut was already soft, but dropping 30% from there to a rating just barely better than Betrayal’s second week (1.2 versus 1.1) does not bode well for the freshman show.  I guess it’s still possible that ABC could try to salvage Wonderland by moving it to Sunday nights to try to boost that flagging lineup (where it would have a more natural companion with its parent show).  But other than that, I don’t see any way to save the show.

Fortunately for ABC, the network hasn’t seen too much erosion in its returning shows.  Sundays are struggling (as they were last spring), but pretty much every other show has returned above where it was last spring and, in Scandal’s case, higher than it ever was last season.  ABC is still tracking for fourth place (owing mostly to a lack of sports or singing programs), but it’s not entirely a disaster.

Season to Date Network Rating Averages (Adults 18-49) –
NBC – 2.77 (Down 1.8% YTD)
CBS – 2.14 (Down 6.2% YTD)
ABC – 2.10 (Down 1.4% YTD)
Fox – 1.92 (Down 3.5% YTD)

New Renewals, Pickups, and Cancelations –
Mom (CBS) – Full-Season Order
The Millers (CBS) – Full-Season Order
The Crazy Ones (CBS) – Full-Season Order
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox) – Full-Season Order
Welcome to the Family (NBC) – Canceled
Ironside (NBC) – Canceled

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.