With just 10 days to go before the five broadcasters present their new programming line-ups and highlights for next season (NBC kicks off the festivities Monday morning on May 13) to advertisers and media types in New York City, here are some key points to know before getting lost in the spin. As always, prepare yourself with some Dramamine and keep in mind that the main objective by any network is to make everything seem… well… just Jim-dandy. Reality check: Don’t be fooled.
Keep in mind that the current standoff between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Talent Agents is not expected to result in a work stoppage. But, in this era of "Peak TV" it could be a more of a challenge to staff the writers for the roster of new series.
Linear is still tops
While the importance of highlighting the digital offshoots of any broadcast network is certainly pivotal (ABC, in particular, will be crowing about its upcoming digital platform Disney+), the linear model is still very much an option. Just ask the 29 million viewers, to-date, that have watched one of the five broadcast networks this season. It is not going away anytime soon.
CBS without Les Moonves
Let’s face it…Former CBS CEO Les Moonves knew how to get the crowd going at Carnegie Hall in New York. He could basically sell a fridge to an Eskimo. Last year, in fact, he even got a rousing standing ovation. All together now…thump!
Even though CBS will boast about its ongoing total viewer dominance, it won’t tell you that the most of its traditional crime solvers are aging, more current shows than ever before are on the proverbial fence, and the network is heading into its first season in 12 years without "The Big Bang Theory." Minus the lead-in support of Adult Sheldon and company, who knows how much interest there will still be in prequel "Young Sheldon." My prediction: a lot less.
A King at CBS
Given Gayle King’s perennial backseat status as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, what a switch at present for her to be mentioned as One of the Most Influential People of 2019 by Times magazine. Move over, Oprah! With the perennial third-place status for newsmagazine "CBS This Morning," the Eye net would be wise to put Ms. King on the forefront at its presentation. I see an opportunity here for the morning franchise.
To the masses that predicted doom for ABC sitcom "The Conners" without Roseanne Barr, the spin-off ranked as ABC’s most-watched sitcom this year (well above any competitors, "Modern Family" included). John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and the rest of the fictional clan need to be the present, and ABC should be commended for finding a new vehicle for their beloved characters.
Family matters to ABC, but not to the audience
Aside from "Bless This Mess," every comedy on ABC is chock full of TV tykes who say…you know…the darndest things. But what does sound attractive to an advertiser is now a haven for low-rated entries like "American Housewife," "The Kids Are Alight," "black-ish," "Splitting Up Together," "Schooled," "Single Parents," "Fresh Off the Boat" and "Speechless." While the alphabet net can’t cancel everything, most of these shows are not worthy of another season.
The forgotten night
Aside from a brief mention of sports on ABC and Fox, and "48 Hours" on CBS (NBC is a dumping ground here for repeats), don’t expect any of the broadcast nets to make mention of Saturday. The one network that did have the goods to make an attempt with original scripted programming, CBS, now has too many holes elsewhere to worry about. While "Ransom" on the Eye net on Saturday at present is an original, it is part of an international deal between Canada’s Global, France’s TF1 and Germany’s RTL. CBS is only burning it off here.
Take a bow
Considering it is tradition for the stars of a once popular series to get their standing ovation prior to the show’s final season, I do imagine ABC will feature the cast of "Modern Family." Next season the comedy concludes after 11 seasons. Fortunately for the alphabet net, no one seems to realize that this once perennial Emmy favorite barely has an audience at this point. Do you still watch?
I also imagine CBS will showcase the cast from "The Big Bang Theory," which at this point could have lived on indefinitely based on the still stellar ratings. That said, my crystal ball tells me a new spin-off will eventually surface. But I am not so sure if it will be ready for next season (or if it will really be worthy watching). Am I the only one who recognizes how stale this sitcom has been in recent seasons?
A windy city feast
Following the success of NBC’s "Chicago" drama trio – "Med," "Fire" and PD" – on Wednesday, the accolades should be front and center at NBC’s presentation. But what the Peacock net won’t tell you is how poorly it continues to fare in the sitcom arena. With aforementioned "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS coming to an end, the emphasis to the packed room needs to be on a new Thursday 8 p.m. anchor that could be potentially mass appeal in nature. "Superstore," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and, yes, even "Will & Grace" do not cut it. Sorry honey!
The CW renews… well… everything!
Naturally, The CW will be shouting off the rooftops about the renewals for virtually every series on its line-up. But, come now, has anyone even seen recently introduced drama "In the Dark"? What about the revival of "Charmed?"
While I do commend Mark Pedowitz and company for the comprehensive superhero-themed programs, I also understand that you cannot focus on the traditional ratings for a niche outlet like The CW. But if you think all these renewals on The CW are synonymous with any momentum for the network it simply is not true.
Fox has the bulk…and the expected ratings too
With the arrival of a two-hour block of "Smackdown Live," the WWE’s flagship program, on Friday next season (as part of Fox Sports’ new five-year agreement with the WWE), I imagine Fox’s annual presentation at The Beacon Theater be chock full of wrestlers, both male and female. And, come next fall, its traditionally modest ratings on Friday will, no doubt, get quite a boost.
The next question to ponder is where the network will position already renewed sitcom "Last Man Standing." Given the ties to ABC, could Tim Allen and the gang end up back on the alphabet network…on Friday?
The end is near
Given the past reputation for some networks to cancel a beloved series and offer no resolution, how refreshing it is to see long-in-tooth series like CBS’ "Criminal Minds," The CW’s "Arrow" and "Supernatural," and ABC’s aforementioned "Modern Family" get a proper sendoff next season. Too bad, though, that Fox doesn’t recognize how far its veteran animated comedies have fallen on Sunday. D’oh!