Two weeks ago, I started the first of a 5-part series, analyzing the main networks and their current successes and failures. More failure than success, excluding the mighty CBS. This week, it's all about FOX, the network that went-for-broke this year in terms of both drama and comedy, vowing to put an end to their reputation as the American Idol/Cartoon network. Did it work? Let's take a look, night-by-night:
Latest Ratings - Feb.27
House - 6.97 million / 2.3 (18-49) demo
Alcatraz - 5.96 million / 1.8 demo
House Season Averages
Season 1 13.34 million
Season 3 19.95 million
Season 5 13.62 million
Season 7 10.32 million
This is the end of what began as a simple medical drama with a cranky star. It premiered in 2004 following the Richard Branson reality series, The Benefactor. Or was that the Mark Cuban one? In any event, FOX hoped that House would reap the benefits of the hit reality series. Instead, Richard Branson's reality series flopped hard, while House grew week-to-week with viewers intrigued by the mystery malady of the week investigated by the perpetually grouchy Dr. House (Hugh Laurie). Then it blew through the ceiling once paired with American Idol and took off in the ratings, never looking back until its fifth or sixth season.
It seems unnecessary to analyze its ratings, dwindling as they are, so let's focus on the show whose future is in serious question: Alcatraz. From J.J. Abrams and starring Sarah Jones and Lost's Jorge Garcia, Alcatraz focuses on the escaped prisoners of the Alcatraz prison that disappeared decades ago, only to re-appear now, ageless and full of bad-doings. Dropping a million viewers and a half a ratings point from House is hardly working in its favor. Fortunately, FOX has cancelled the ultra-high budgeted Terra Nova, leaving it up to Alcatraz, The Finder and Touch to carry the drama series mantle next season, which at this point, will only be carried by Glee and Bones (unless FOX feels charitable and renews Fringe). The Finder's downfall may prove to be Alcatraz's second chance. Can FOX reasonably cancel over half of their schedule? Possibly, but I doubt it. They need some recognizable series next season. Even if it's a Friday dweller, Alcatraz will likely be back on those numbers.
8pm Raising Hope
8:30pm I Hate My Teenage Daughter
9pm New Girl
9:30pm Breaking In
Season Average Raising Hope
Season 1 - 6.40 million
Season Average Breaking In
Season 1 - 8.24 million
Latest Ratings March 20
Raising Hope - 3.78 million / 1.6 demo
I Hate My... - 2.92 million / 1.2 demo
New Girl - 5.18 million / 2.7 demo
Breaking In - 2.84 million / 1.3 demo
It's hard to imagine FOX justifiably going for another all-comedy block next season after this brief and disastrous affair for the last few weeks. New Girl, the lone bright spot on the schedule, is doing its usual thing by performing exceptionally well amidst the sinking ship of Tuesday night on FOX. It's hard to analyze something that is working so well. Sure, the numbers alone aren't hot, but it's pulling a high 2 in the 18-49 demo while all others are floundering in mid-to -low 1s. Zooey Deschanel is safe for next season.
Raising Hope is in the same boat it's always in: it's not flourising, it's not sinking. Raising Hope is that little show a few choice critics seem to love, but audiences aren't hot for it. Still, canceling 75% of their comedy slate isn't happening. They'll give Raising Hope a third season, if only to inch closer to a syndication deal.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter is a moot point, pulled from the schedule and having a snowball's chance in hell of a return.
Breaking In is that huge, monumental mistake FOX made that they can't possibly admit to immediately. But let's face facts: the news is bad. Real bad. Christian Slater is staring down the barrel of his third straight television failure. Whoever agreed to renew Breaking In should lose their job. A low ratings performer isn't going to come back and score huge numbers for no reason at all. What was a dead fish is still a dead fish in the water. No chance for another reprieve.
8pm Wednesday - American Idol
8pm Thursday - American Idol Results
9pm Thursday - Touch
Season Average American Idol
Season 1 9.85
Season 2 26.50
Season 5 35.53
Season 6 37.44
Season 8 30.45
Season 10 26.23
Latest American Idol Ratings March 21/22
Wednesday Mar. 21 - 17.21 million / 5.1 demo
Thursday Mar. 22 - 15.58 million / 4.2 demo
Latest Touch Ratings March 22
Touch - 11.81 million / 3.3 demo
Touch Premiere Ratings (Jan. 25)
11.87 million / 3.9 demo
Touch Premiere Repeat Ratings (Mar. 15)
8.67 million / 2.2 demo
American Idol has turned into the little engine that could, a far cry from the unstoppable runaway smash from a few years ago. Ratings are undeniably going down. Are fans tiring of the perpetually nice comments from Steven Tyler, J-Lo and Randy Jackson? Have The X Factor and The Voice taken a big bite out of the singing competition pie once enjoyed solely by Idol? Are fans fed up with a certain type of singer always winning, over the superior talents of others?
Wednesday, Idol pulled 17 million viewers on Wednesday and a 5.1 in the 18-49 demo. Let's be honest: it's still big, will be for a few more years. But damage is irreparable. Seacrest and the crew have been hemmoraging viewers since roughly 2007. Will FOX ever cancel the show in the next five years? Probably not. It'll regenerate and renew itself each year. Eventually it'll go away forever, but for now, FOX is happy when January rolls around.
Touch is an interesting story. Premiere ratings were solid in January, with 12 million viewers and a 3.9 in the 18-49 demo. Then last week, premiering in its regular time period, the repeat of the pilot scored 8.67 million viewers and a 2.2 in the demo. That's huge for a repeat of a series premiere from two months ago. Then on Thursday past, it barely lost any of its debut numbers, scoring 11.81 million viewers. unfortunately, the 18-49 demo dipped from 3.9 to 3.3. Still, the prognosis is good. It should squeak out a few more healthy numbers for score a second season renewal.
8pm Kitchen Nightmares
Latest Ratings February 24
Kitchen Nightmares - 3.48 million / 1.5 demo
Fringe - 3.09 million / 1.2 demo
Season Average Fringe
Season 1 10.02
Season 2 6.25
Season 3 5.83
**NOTE: I am ignoring Friday, March 23rd numbers as they seem to be affected across the board by the huge opening day for The Hunger Games. Or that's what FOX is hoping.** The new wasteland of television is Friday nights. The decay of Saturday nights has spread a night early and left networks with very few options for the end of the week. Some opt for crime dramas (CBS), others opt for unscripted fare (ABC), while FOX is going for food drama and sci-fi.
The Gordon Ramsay train is chuggling along with summer hit Hell's Kitchen and season regular Kitchen Nightmares. Sure, no one jumps for joy at 3.48 million and a 1.5 demo, but it's consistent. It's something FOX can depend upon for Friday nights. Coming in a few months is Hotel Hell, so FOX isn't severing ties anytime soon with the fast-talking cranky chef.
Fringe, on the other hand, has blown through rock bottom, as evidenced by the 3.09 million people who watched on February 24th, and the 1.2 demo it pulled in the key demographic. FOX has been adamant in trying to make Fringe a hit. I want it to be a hit. Every fan of Fringe wants it to be a hit. Never going to happen. If FOX does renew Fringe for a fifth and final season, it'll be at a loss to the network. They're not making money. To renew it once more for a syndication deal would be unnecessary. It has never and will never be The X-Files.
It was a year ago this week that Fringe received a fourth season reneweal. I just don't see the same happening. Not at all. FOX will keep the spot warm for Alcatraz next fall.
7:30 The Cleveland Show
8pm The Simpsons
8:30 Bob's Burgers
9pm Family Guy
9:30 American Dad
Latest Ratings March 18
The Cleveland Show - 3.27 million / 1.5 demo
The Simpsons - 5.24 million / 2.4 demo
Bob's Burgers - 4.39 million / 2.1 demo
Family Guy - 5.67 million / 2.8 demo
American Dad - 4.61 million / 2.2 demo
Season Average The Cleveland Show
Season 1 6.39 million
Season 2 6.09 million
Season Average Bob's Burgers
Season 1 5.07 million
Season Average American Dad
Season 1 7.1 million
Season 3 6.6 million
Season 5 5.9 million
Season 6 4.7 million
Where do you start with FOX's Sunday night animation domination? First, the bad news for veteran favorites: ratings are down for The Simpsons and Family Guy. Peter Griffin and the gang still reign supreme on the night, but it's a far cry from when he hit 4s in the 18-49 demographic. Same for The Simpsons, pushing twenty-five seasons. But they are the pillars that hold Sunday nights together. Someday, before Family Guy, The Simpsons will end. And FOX will be ready for it. It's not if, but when.
So what about the supporting players of the night? American Dad is nothing but consistent for FOX. Move it all around the schedule, and it always does marginally well. It's never going to be The Simpsons or Family Guy, but it gets the job done. Cancelling American Dad now would be a terrible decision on FOX's part. To a lesser extent, The Cleveland Show is the same, but fans never really warmed to the idea of Cleveland Brown with his own show. There were so many better options in the Family Guy universe. In fact, the best part of spinning him off are the sporadic appearances he now makes on Family Guy.
So, outside of Seth MacFarlane and Matt Groening, we still have a few options left. Current inhabitant Bob's Burgers seems to fit in fairly well, attracting a 2.1 in the key demo out of The Simpsons' 2.4 demo. That is solid retention. Of all the outsider cartoons, Bob's Burgers is the only one with a leg up, thanks to being in its second season currently. Should they give it a third run?
On the other side, there's Napoleon Dynamite. It's going to come down to one or the other. With The Flintstones waiting for a 2013 debut, and too many other moving parts to its animated lineup, they can't afford both Napoleon Dynamite and Bob's Burgers. And Napoleon Dynamite pulled in its own respectable ratings. Not to mention it has a popular 2004 film to give it extra exposure. It'll always be "Hey, it's a cartoon based on that movie!", whereas Bob's Burgers is starting from scratch.
If it came down to either one, I would go with Bob's Burgers. It's a better fit to their current schedule, and it has a tad more experience going for it. Unless they plan on expanding their animation lineup, something FOX has done before and failed at, it'll be the end for Napoleon.
Thankfully, FOX has already long since canned Allen Gregory, the tragically unfunny series starring Jonah Hill. Big surprise.
FOX is the "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" network. They really fired on all cylinders this year, airing Terra Nova, Alcatraz, Touch, The Finder, New Girl and Napoleon Dynamite, a diverse group of hits and misses if there ever was one. Sure, most of those won't make it, but it's the thought that counts... no wait, that only applies for cheap birthday gifts. What counts is that FOX tried to expand their lineup with a wide arrange of new programming. Sometimes it clicked (New Girl, Touch), sometimes it didn't (Terra Nova, The Finder). But more often than not, it didn't. Does that mean more safe, boring fare next year? I hope not. Love the shows or hate them, FOX tried this year. They win the prize for Most Dynamic and Diverse Programming.
-CBS went to hell with themselves, renewing the majority of its schedule for next season, including 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, CSI, Blue Bloods and How I Met Your Mother. Rob Schneider is currently sitting by his phone waiting for the call. Hey Rob, there's always the horribly offensive side characters in Adam Sandler flicks!
-NBC renewed both Grimm and Smash for second seasons. Guess which show title best describes NBC's future!
-MTV renewed Jersey Shore for a sixth season. How can you pass up on "Four Guidos, Four Guidettes and a Little Guidbaby"?
-The CW released its first image from The Carrie Diaries' pilot episode, starring AnnaSophia Robb. Spoiler alert: the series finale will feature a shocking twist ending in which Sarah Jessica Parker murders AnnaSophia Robb and assumes the Carrie Bradshaw role. How else do you explain Robb turning into Parker in twenty years?
That's all for this week's look at FOX. Next week, things will be done differently as I analyze CBS. Because they renewed most of their shows this week, I'll take a look at which shows should move where in the fall.
Until then, stay tuned.