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Friday, January 16, 2015

QUICK HITS: January 16, 2015

As we'll begin to hear about pilot season and people will start predicting how things will go with the networks, here are three things I think each network should do next season.

ABC

1) Expand its family comedy universe
ABC finally has a coherent Wednesday lineup and it's no coincidence that they finally went with family comedies from top to bottom. They also have Last Man Standing plugging along and the promising Fresh Off the Boat coming in February. ABC has a trashcan full of edgier, non-family sitcoms that have failed in recent years. ABC's tentpole shows - The Middle and Modern Family are getting older and they should be thinking about the future for Wednesday and possibly another night. But that other night should be more family sitcoms, not shows like Selfie. Keep developing shows that fit the ABC brand and have for decades (ABC was king of the family sitcoms, and not just on TGIF, in the 1990s).

2) Get another Shondaland show
Shonda Rhimes is ABC's savior and her production company has churned out three huge hits for Thursday night. ABC doesn't need to worry about overexposure if they go back to the well and Shonda brings another totally different option. This is especially important since How to Get Away with Murder only does 16 episodes a year and Grey's Anatomy probably doesn't have a lot of years left. Maybe viewers will tire of her shows at some point but that's not happening anytime soon so ABC should stay in business with the hottest producer on TV.

3) Move Castle Already
ABC has had Castle on Monday nights with good lead-ins from Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor for years. With Castle looking weaker, it's time to develop a drama and put it on Mondays at 10pm (actually it's been time for quite awhile). Dancing and Bachelor aren't what they once were but they can still be a place for a new ABC drama. And Castle could certainly be used on Sundays or Tuesdays. It's time to make the move already.

CBS

1) Develop a new franchise-able drama
They are developing a new Criminal Minds spinoff and I have no problem with that even though the first one didn't work in 2010. But it's time to develop a new drama that is in the vein of NCIS, CSI, or Criminal Minds without having one of their names attached to it. Find a show that can be a future franchise, give it a great spot to launch in and see what happens. I feel like CBS either does spinoffs or less "big tent" shows whereas they used to be developing these hit procedurals year after year. They may not win awards, but they get viewers.

2) Find one more upscale show
As evidenced by Madam Secretary's renewal this past week, CBS is pleased with its Sunday night lineup. They might not get huge ratings and they skew old, but they find the coveted upscale viewers. I think it's time to find one more show to go with reliable 60 Minutes, the fresh Secretary, and critically adored The Good Wife. Maybe move Wife to 10pm and get a new drama for 9pm. It eems like a brand CBS would be happy to have on an important night of TV.

3) Try to get a full fall of Thursday Night Football
Yes, CBS has a lot of successful shows and they probably don't need Thursday Night Football. But since they have it, they should go for a full year and then launch a regular Thursday lineup in January. January is always a great time of year for CBS and they could get some strong season and series premieres there.

NBC

1) Keep trying with comedy
NBC has been having problems for comedies for years now and it's not for lack of trying. They've tried more niche shows, family sitcoms, and now (this spring) multi-camera sitcoms. However, very few shows have been all that good (in my opinion). NBC needs to keep trying with comedy and hope something works. After all, ABC was in trouble with comedy for years before they launched an all new night of it in 2009 and found two huge hits in The Middle and Modern Family and one modest success in Cougar Town. NBC can do it, but they can't give up.

2) Don't expand the Chicago franchise... yet
NBC is expressing an interest in expanding the Chicago Fire and Chicago PD franchise to include Chicago Med, and they're clearly planting seeds already. This might be a good option eventually but I wouldn't do it yet. They have a possible success in the medical genre with The Night Shift and they need to keep developing new ideas for now. This isn't the same situation as CBS because PD still hasn't really caught on. Just give it time and let these two shows do another year together.

3) Use limited shows effectively
NBC is the most innovative network right now with their limited shows, mini-series, and live events like their musicals. They have two promising shows in this family coming up: The Bible on Easter Sunday and the upcoming Neil Patrick Harris Variety Show. The trickiest thing to all this is scheduling. I love what they're doing with The Bible on Sundays and the Sunday option is great for limited series since they only ever have the spring open thanks to football. The Neil Patrick Harris show is a real opportunity for them but they need to be careful about where it goes. My suggestion would be Thurs at 8 if The Blacklist works or Sunday nights at 8 in the spring.

FOX

1) Embrace diversity
Networks that have gone for diversity this season in their programming have seen it pay off with new hits How to Get Away with Murder, Black-ish, and Empire. Years ago, FOX was a major appeal to minorities but it wasn't a wide enough target. Now that we live in a bigger melting pot and network's overall ratings are lower, it's not a bad demographic to target. And FOX seems like the network most poised to go that direction since they have the most building to do. I'm not saying they need to turn into BET, but finding a compatible show for Empire should be pretty high on the priority list.

2) Don't abandon pilot season
Ousted FOX boss Kevin Reilly famously declared that FOX was moving away from the pilot model but we have seen so many straight to series orders get cancelled before they air (Hieroglyph, Emerald City, Members Only). In fact, the biggest new success stories for FOX are two shows that did go through the typical pilot process: Gotham and Empire. There's a reason this model has worked for decades, no reason to change it.

3) Give Friday another shot
FOX basically threw Friday to the wolves this year with Utopia and repeats in the fall and a burnoff of Glee's final season and the cheap World's Funniest Fails this January. FOX only has a limited number hours on their schedule so they shouldn't give up on Friday. I know they have a lot to fix but they could go back to trying some genre shows here. It'd be a shame to see a network that only programs two hours a night anyway give up on a night entirely.

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