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Ecks Factor: Analyzing ABC

Once prospering under the weight of Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy, ABC's power has shifted to strong sitcoms and Dancing With The Stars. Things aren't all bad, as it really could be worse. Let's take a look at ABC, night by night.

MONDAY

8pm Dancing With the Stars
10pm Castle

Latest Ratings April 2nd
DWTS - 16.54 million / 2.8 demo
Castle - 12.06 million / 2.2 demo

Season Averages DWTS
N/A

Season Averages Castle
Season 1 - 10.19 million
Season 2 - 10.25 million
Season 3 - 11.44 million

Renewal predictions:
Both will be back. Castle has only grown in viewership.

THOUGHTS
One of ABC's best decisions was limiting Dancing With The Stars to twice a year. Considering the timeframe of each season, they could have over-saturated the brand by airing an additional season in between its September-November and March-May seasons, but ABC knew it would kill the series quickly.

Despite falling numbers overall (and a tragically low 18-49 demo, even compared to a year or two ago), DWTS is still a big winner for the network. As random and fading as the "stars" are, the program is a lot of fun and doesn't often get enough credit for the overall production of the series. It's viewed as "that show with so-called stars", but it's a tremendous production each week. Obviously, it's a guilty pleasure of mine.

In a way, it has survived all of the competition programs of recent years: it regularly gets more viewers than The Voice and American Idol. Sure, it gets trounced by virtually everything in key demos, but when you have viewership that good, you tend to ignore the abysmal demo ratings.

As for Castle, Nathan Fillion seems to have finally found a hit series to star in. Unfortunately, it's one of about two dozen crime dramas currently on the air. Still, numbers don't lie and Castle is a solid hit for the network which is missing big elsewhere and doesn't need to lose Castle anytime soon.

I don't think ABC should make any changes here. The cycle of DWTS and The Bachelor will continue, with Castle at 10.

TUESDAY

8:00 Last Man Standing
8:30 Cougar Town
9:00 Dancing With the Stars
10:00 Body of Proof

Latest Ratings April 10th
Last Man Standing - 6.72 million / 1.7 demo
Cougar Town - 4.96 million / 1.5 demo
Dancing With The Stars - 13.02 million / 2.3 demo
Body of Proof - 10.17 million / 1.9 demo

Season Averages Cougar Town
Seasons 1 & 2 - 7.34 million

Season Averages Body of Proof
Season 1 - 13.68 million

Renewal predictions:
Tim Allen will likely enjoy lasting success for Last Man Standing, against my predictions at the start of the season. Who said I'm always right? Not me. Body of Proof might benefit from less-than-respectable ratings from Missing and Scandal, while Cougar Town is probably on the way out. Probably. Maybe.

THOUGHTS
ABC has some major retooling in store for Tuesdays next year. Do they expand their comedy lineup with so many awesome choices? They can't possibly cancel Cougar Town AND Happy Endings, could they? Not if they expand the sitcom slate. And it's a possibility, albeit a small one. If it does, both bubble shows will return.

More likely, Last Man Standing will return in the fall with a new companion at 8:30. Whether it's an actual new sitcom or a returning favorite remains to be seen. Last Man Standing is neither a huge hit in viewers nor a big hit in the key demo either. But things are worse elsewhere for the network. Tim Allen's job is secure for one more year at least.

Body of Proof is a question mark. It's kind of that show that is on, gets good viewership, but does anyone really watch it? Can you tell me who stars in it without thinking about it first? Also, ratings tend to plummet when DWTS isn't serving as the lead-in, which means it's entirely expendable. Still, with Missing and Scandal underperforming on Thursday and GCB not taking off on Sunday, can they put their support behind rookie dramas next year or give a third year renewal to the Dana Delany series?

WEDNESDAY
8:00 The Middle
8:30 Suburgatory
9:00 Modern Family
9:30 Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23/Happy Endings
10:00 Revenge

Season Averages The Middle
Season 1 - 6.90 million
Season 2 - 8.11 million

Season Averages Modern Family
Season 1 - 9.39 million
Season 2 - 11.89 million

Season Averages Happy Endings
Season 1 - 5.04 million

Latest Ratings
The Middle - 7.04 million / 2.1 demo
Suburgatory - 6.11 million/ 2.1 demo
Modern Family - 10.25 million / 4.1 demo
Don't Trust... - 6.98 million / 2.9 demo
Revenge Recap - 5.57 million / 1.6 demo

Happy Endings (April 4) - 3.70 million / 1.6 demo

Renewal predictions:
The Middle and Modern Family are shoe-ins, while Suburgatory and Revenge are all but guarantees. That leaves Happy Endings and Don`t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 as toss-ups. Both likely depend on Week 2 ratings for DTTBIA23. Somehow, it`s harder to type that out than to type the full name of the show.

THOUGHTS
One of the best blocks of comedy on television is in line for a shake-up next year. It won't remain exactly the same, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, does that mean fan favorite Happy Endings is going elsewhere? Probably. ABC used the time period for Happy Endings for a season and a half, to mixed results. They won't do it again next year.

What about Suburgatory? It remains a comfy fit out of The Middle, but what if ABC could find a better hit to air between The Middle and Modern Family? If I had to predict though, I'd say Suburgatory is safe in the time slot for next season. To move it to Tuesdays would guarantee its failure.

Modern Family and The Middle have been getting bigger in their third seasons, despite recent declines, thanks to competition from American Idol. Not much to say there. Nothing is stable enough to start the night besides The Middle, and Modern Family serves as a worthy anchor.

Revenge, the subject of the next Ecks Factor, is too addictive to even consider it a toss-up for a renewal. If it comes back, it needs to stay put. If ratings were better, I'd say it should head off to Sunday nights, but to move it might make it self-destruct. No one wants that, least of all me. But if ABC is in a gambling mood, I wouldn't be shocked to see it move to Sunday to take the Desperate Housewives mantle.

THURSDAY

8:00pm Missing
9:00pm Grey's Anatomy
10:00pm Private Practice/Scandal

Latest Ratings April 12th
Missing - 7.87 million / 1.4 demo
Grey's Anatomy - 8.84 million / 2.9 demo
Scandal - 7.45 million / 2.1 demo

Premiere Numbers for Scandal (April 5th)
Scandal - 7.45 million / 2.1 demo (Yes, that's not a typo.)

Private Practice (Mar. 15) - 7.01 million / 2.2 demo

Season Averages Grey's Anatomy
Season 1 - 18.46 million
Season 3 - 19.22 million
Season 4 - 15.92 million
Season 6 - 13.25 million
Season 7 - 11.41 million

Season Averages Private Practice
Season 1 - 11.57 million
Season 3 - 9.05 million
Season 4 - 7.63 million

Renewal predictions:
Grey's Anatomy is coming back for at least one season, as will Private Practice. Scandal is possible, while Missing not so much.

THOUGHTS
How far the mighty do fall. Grey's Anatomy, once hitting over 20 million viewers, fell to 8.8 million viewers for its latest episode. But check out the 2.9 in the 18-49 demo. That's great for any show, let alone one with diminished viewership. It's coming back, but the days are numbered.

Private Practice has never enjoyed the same success. It has forever lived in Grey's Anatomy's shadow. You can't really say it has survived or thrived on its own. Without the lead-in, Private Practice might have ended long ago. But with so many holes in the ship, ABC would be wise to keep a sure thing in the Kate Walsh spin-off.

Ashley Judd's return to the spotlight isn't much to write home about. Ads ran for weeks before the big debut and ratings are certainly showing how little audiences care about the show. Whatever is made up with a decent viewership number is dashed away by a terrible demo number. Missing doesn't really jive with any of ABC's schedule and shouldn't be expecting a second season order.

Scandal is too early to predict. Considering it's only pulling the same numbers as Private Practice, I wouldn't have expected to see Scandal on the fall schedule. But as I've said before, ABC has bigger fish to fry. And retention week-to-week of 100% (give or take, considering final numbers) is incredible. If it keeps this up for a few more weeks, Scandal will return.

FRIDAY

8:00pm Shark Tank
9:00pm Primetime: What Would You Do?
10:00pm 20/20

Latest Ratings March 23rd
Shark Tank - 5.95 million / 1.5 demo
Primetime - 5.19 million / 1.6 demo
20/20 - 5.40 million / 1.6 demo

Season Averages
n/a

Renewal predictions:
ABC has given up on Fridays. I don't expect any of the programs to bite the dust, especially the long-running news magazine programs.

THOUGHTS
What is there to say really? ABC gets so-so numbers out of Primetime and 20/20. They're not going to change this lineup. They've thrown in the towel long ago.

As for Shark Tank, it's doing well enough to warrant another season. Not much else to say there either. Things could be better, things could be worse.

SUNDAY

8:00pm Once Upon a Time
9:00pm Desperate Housewives
10:00pm GCB

Latest Ratings April 1st
Once Upon a Time - 8.20 million / 2.7 demo
Desperate Housewives - 8.38 million / 2.6 demo
GCB - 5.84 million / 1.9 demo

Season Averages Desperate Housewives
Season 1 - 23.69 million
Season 2 - 21.70 million
Season 4 - 17.52 million
Season 6 - 12.83 million
Season 8 (so far) - 8.47 million

Renewal predictions:
Of course Once Upon a Time is coming back. GCB is probably the biggest question mark on ABC's schedule. Gun to my head, I'd say it's finished.

THOUGHTS
ABC put a ton of faith in Pan Am way back in September, feeling it could groom the 1960s Mad Men clone (clone in idea, not in execution) to take over the Desperate Housewives void this fall. That didn't turn out so well. Crash and burn, as they (and I) said.

So now ABC hopes that GCB (originally Good Christian Bitches and then Good Christian Belles) will fill the Housewives void. As you can clearly see by the ratings evidence, the numbers aren't there. But GCB isn't necessarily dead weight. Ratings are better than Pan Am, and given a better, healthier lead-in, it could grow in viewership. Of course the argument would be "What's a better lead-in than a show similar in tone like Desperate Housewives?" But it doesn't always work that way, especially when ratings are so far down for the Wisteria Lane women.

One sure bet is Once Upon a Time. Despite falling viewership, it's still far and away better than most of ABC's dramas. At this point, it has to stay in the same time slot. They risk losing a younger viewership by moving it to 9pm. Where that leaves ABC, I don't know. GCB isn't strong enough to anchor the night. Which is why I fear they'll move Revenge to Sundays at 9pm, while it's still an unproven asset to the network.

**************

Final Thoughts:
ABC is the "could be better, could be worse" network. It's not in a prosperous region like CBS, but it's not in the dreadful abyss of NBC. More on the peacock network in two weeks. Mondays and Fridays aren't broken. Thursday is a mess of unproven dramas. Wednesday and Tuesday could serve as sitcom blocks, while Sundays needs a new anchor show to lead the night. ABC won't axe all of their dramas, but it's going to be tough deciding which should stay and which should go. I'm predicting Once Upon a Time, Revenge and Scandal to return, while it's curtains for Body of Proof, Missing and probably GCB. Maybe.

**************

TUBE NEWS

-FOX has cancelled Breaking In for the second time! I'd feel sorry if the renewal had been warranted, but it wasn't. Don't expect another sitcom block on FOX next season. That sound you hear? FOX saying "Yeah, we get it. We were wrong! Let it go already." But it was such a dumb idea!

-ABC has renewed General Hospital for one more year, while simultaneously cancelling The Revolution. I might be wrong but I'm not sure there's even a show called The Revolution on TV. I smell conspiracy.

-HBO renewed Game of Thrones for a third season. In other news, the sky is blue.

*************

That's all for this week's edition. Sound off below with your thoughts on ABC's schedule plans for next week. I have two columns planned for next week, the first of which will be devoted to my favorite guilty pleasure of the season: Revenge.

Until then, stay tuned.

Login to Comment
Total Comments: 3
Bluebomb
Bluebomb    Apr 16 2012 2:26pm
While I would cancel everything on Tuesday, Last Man Standing might eke out another season with only slightly better ratings than other comedies. That 1.8 rating with the last episode is not good news at all and I think ABC wants to see it stabilize first before renewing it. If it continues to drop with its last 2 episodes to 1.5 or below, renewal is not going to happen. I think 1.6 is the benchmark for this show.

I disagree that it'll be between HE and Don't Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23. Both shows can survive without one getting the axe. Here's how it could work:

Tuesday
8:00 - Dancing with the Stars/NEW DRAMA
9:00 - Suburgatory or NEW COMEDY
9:30 - Last Man Standing
10:00 - Happy Endings
10:30 - Don't Trust the Bitch...

which leaves

Wednesday
8:00 - The Middle
8:30 - NEW COMEDY or Suburgatory
9:00 - Modern Family
9:30 - NEW COMEDY
10:00 - Revenge

I've heard from people that Suburgatory and Happy Endings would make a great pairing together and Tuesday needs an anchor after DWTS/NEW Drama. I put Last Man Standing in afterwards because I don't see any other place for it. 9 PM would just waste the DWTS lead-in. `0 PM or later is a deadzone for a family comedy. Happy Endings/Don't Trust the Bitch are not family comedies and need to move into the later timeslots to accommodate its more racy material.

I also believe that moving Suburgatory would do two things: offer a new space for a new family comedy show at 8:30, continue to thrive with the DWTS lead-in. If ABC were to leave Suburgatory in its original timeslot, Tuesdays after 9 will be at risk with a new show serving as a lead-in for the rest of the night.

Either way, I think Happy Endings/Don't Trust the Bitch... needs to move to the 10 PM timeslot because those two shows are not compatible with Modern Family but they are both pulling in respectable numbers up until this point.
Mister Ecks
Mister Ecks    Apr 17 2012 6:48am
The real test for APT 23 is this week's ratings. I'm curious to see if it stabilizes or plummets.

I like the idea behind 10pm comedies, but I don't like the thought of how bad ratings would be, unfortunately. But the 10pm drama isn't as strong as it once was. Might be time to try something new. There's an unwritten rule that half-hour programming can only air between 8 and 10. Might be time to change that.
Crux
Crux    Apr 20 2012 2:35pm
The Wednesday night lineup is solid. If "Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23" turns out well the lineup will be awesome.