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Sunday, February 24, 2013

WEEKEND REWIND: ABC 2003-04 Season

Things were bleak for ABC heading into 2003 as they were still struggling in the post-Millionaire era with flop after flop. They only had three shows in the Top 30 (one of them being the Monday Night Football game). They had renewed six freshman from the previous season but none were breakout hits and one - 8 Simple Rules - was dealt a serious below right before its second season. This season produced less renewals but also less instant reality show bombs but ABC was still chasing that elusive runaway hit. Several came in the 2004-05 season but for now, they had another troublesome season.

Mondays
(Sep 22-Dec 22)
8:00 Various Programming
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Jan 5-May 24)
8:00 Monday Night Movie
ABC did not even attempt scripted programming on Mondays this season. In the fall, they coupled Monday Night Football with various specials including several Primetime Monday news programs. In the spring, they did not go with scripted series and instead did a movie - usually three hours, but sometimes two hours with a special or encore.

Tuesdays
(Sep 23-Nov 25)
8:00 8 Simple Rules
8:30 I'm With Her
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 NYPD Blue

(Dec 2-Feb 3)
8:00 8 Simple Rules (starting Dec 23)
8:30 I'm With Her (starting Dec 23)
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 Line of Fire

(Feb 10-May 11)
8:00 8 Simple Rules
8:30 I'm With Her (through Apr 27)
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 NYPD Blue
"I'm With Her"
ABC had gotten Tuesdays in somewhat working order the season before with the modest success of 8 Simple Rules, According to Jim, and Less Than Perfect. However, tragedy struck when Rules star John Ritter suddenly died less than two weeks before the season started and after only three episodes had been filmed. The show soldiered on by adding James Garner and David Spade. The initial episodes including Ritter's final ones and the few immediately after delivered huge numbers and the show was renewed for a third season. However, it's lifespan was probably shortened in the long run due to the tragedy. As for the rest of the night, According to Jim turned into a solid anchor at 9pm and Less Than Perfect managed to hold on for another season despite middling ratings. ABC premiered the new sitcom I'm With Her at 8:30pm. Starring Teri Polo and David Sutcliffe, the sitcom was about a movie star dating an average guy. The show premiered to good ratings thanks to the big Rules lead-in but it lost its audience as the season went along and was cancelled at the end of the season. At 10pm, NYPD Blue continued to air at 10pm but it dropped out of the Top 30 for the first time as the long running show was nearing its end. It was briefly replaced in the winter by crime drama Line of Fire featuring Leslie Bibb. The series followed rookie FBI agents and was criticized for being graphic. It lasted only 11 episodes before Blue came back.

Wednesdays
(Oct 1-Nov 19)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 It's All Relative
9:00 The Bachelor
10:00 Karen Sisco (through Nov 12)

(Nov 26-Dec 31)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 It's All Relative
9:00 Various Programming

(Jan 7-Feb 25)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 It's All Relative
9:00 The Bachelorette (starting Jan 14)
10:00 The Mole (through Feb 18)

(Mar 3-31)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 My Wife and Kids (encores)
9:00 Extreme Makeover (starting Mar 10)
10:00 Kingdom Hospital

(Apr 7-May 26)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 My Wife and Kids (encores)
9:00 The Bachelor
10:00 Extreme Makeover (Apr 14-May 5)
"It's All Relative"
Wednesday night started by continuing the flow from the previous season of comedies at 8pm and reality from 9-11pm. My Wife and Kids continued to lead off the night and it was paired with It's All Relative, a comedy about the relationship between a man from a traditional family and a woman with gay parents. Though this was only six years before Modern Family, it was still more of a taboo topic in 2003 and caught some protests because of that. It didn't do well anyway and was cancelled after 20 episodes. Repeats of My Wife and Kids filled the rest of the night. Returning reality shows The Bachelor and The Mole started the night but The Bachelor was in two cycles so it was replaced by The Bachelorette and then Extreme Makeover to make a revolving door of reality shows. They did try one scripted series later in the season with Kingdom Hospital, a horror series developed by Stephen King. The show had a huge cast and delivered a very strong premiere but the numbers fell pretty dramatically after that and the show was quickly cancelled.

Thursdays
(Sep 25-Jan 29)
8:00 Threat Matrix
9:00 Extreme Makeover
10:00 Primetime Thursday

(Feb 5-Apr 1)
8:00 Various Programming
9:00 Extreme Makeover
10:00 Primetime Thursday

(Apr 8-29)
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (encores)
9:00 Kingdom Hospital
10:00 Primetime Thursday
"Threat Matrix"
Even back in 2003, ABC was having trouble with the Thursday 8pm slot as they tried to launch Threat Matrix about a US anti-terrorism unit in the era right after 9/11 when Homeland Security was a major buzzword. The show did not catch on and going against the final season of Friends on NBC was no easy task either. It was yanked after 14 episodes. Reality shows and various specials filled most of the rest of the season save for a second, and equally unsuccessful, timeslot for Kingdom Hospital. Primetime Thursday aired in the 10pm hour all year. ABC continued to almost take a pass on the night as they couldn't make anything stick now that NBC was still strong and CBS had added Survivor and CSI to the night.

Fridays
(Sep 26-Mar 12)
8:00 George Lopez
8:30 Married to the Kellys (starting Oct 3)
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Life with Bonnie
10:00 20/20

(Mar 19-Apr 9)
8:00 George Lopez
8:30 The Big House (starting Apr 2)
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Life with Bonnie
10:00 The D.A.

(Apr 16-May 14)
8:00 George Lopez
8:30 The Big House (through Apr 30)
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Various Programming
10:00 20/20
"Hope & Faith"
After a couple years off, ABC tried to bring back TGIF in 2003 with a new lineup of sitcoms that included returning shows George Lopez and Life with Bonnie as bookends and two newbies in the middle. Married to the Kellys was a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a family moving back to the wife's hometown of Kansas City. Hope and Faith starred Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford as sisters. The valiant attempt to bring back TGIF was far less successful than the first go round in the 1990s. Married to the Kellys was cancelled at the end of the season and Life with Bonnie tanked in its second season. Hope & Faith managed to get a second season because it did the best of the block and Kelly Ripa had a fair amount of star power. At the end of the season, ABC tried another sitcom, The Big House, which was basically The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in reverse. At 10pm, ABC mostly aired veteran newsmagazine 20/20 but they did make a rare attempt at scripted programming in the hour with a short spring run for The D.A. starring Steven Weber. The show did not do well at all in the sleepy Friday night slot as 20/20 was back after four weeks.

Saturdays
(Oct 1-Nov 4)
8:00 Saturday Night Movie
10:00 LA Dragnet

(Nov 11-May 15)
8:00 Saturday Night Movie
For the first time since the 1998-99 season, ABC tried scripted programming on Saturdays with LA Dragnet. However, it was very short lived as the second year drama was cancelled quickly and ABC spent the rest of the season airing movies and occasional repeats or specials. It's a little surprising they even tried anything on Saturday with how many problems they had.

Sundays
(Sep 28-Jan 25)
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 10-8
9:00 Alias
10:00 The Practice

(Feb 15-May 23)
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 Alias
10:00 The Practice
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
Sunday nights no longer had The Wonderful World of Disney movie after six years and instead brought America's Funniest Home Videos back to the 7pm slot it used to have and where it still airs. At 8pm, ABC started with 10-8, a standard Los Angeles-set cop procedural. Sunday 8pm is a difficult time to launch a drama like this and it only made it until Janaury where it was replaced by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The spinoff of Extreme Makeover hosted by Ty Pennington ultimately proved to be much more successful than its parent show and it ended up having a nice run in this slot. It was arguably the most successful new show for ABC in awhile. At 9pm, ABC continued to air Alias but it had difficulty finding a mass audience. The Practice returned to the night at 10pm but without several cast members as budget cuts to ensure a renewal meant about half the cast was gone. The show soldiered on for one more season and added William Shatner and James Spader to the cast. By season's end, The Practice was gone but Shatner and Spader had been quite popular and they headlined a spinoff, Boston Legal, which ran for several years.

ABC 2003-04 Stats

Shows in the Top 30
9. Monday Night Football
21. The Bachelor/The Bachelorette

Fall Shows Survival: 1/7 (14%)
Hope & Faith

Midseason Shows Survival: 1/5 (20%)
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Total New Show Survival Rate: 2/12 (17%)

Cancelled/Ended Shows: 
The Drew Carey Show (9 seasons, aired in Summer 2004)
The Practice (8 seasons)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (7 seasons, aired in Summer 2004)
The Mole (4 seasons)
Life with Bonnie/LA Dragnet (2 seasons)
Threat Matrix/I'm With Her/10-8/It's All Relative/Karen Sisco/Married to the Kellys/Line of Fire/Kingdom Hospital/The D.A./The Big House (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
James Spader, The Practice (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
Jennifer Garner, Alias (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
John Ritter, 8 Simple Rules (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Bonnie Hunt, Life with Bonnie (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Victor Garber, Alias (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)

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