Broadcasters gear up for time-slot battles
By James Hibberd
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With broadcasters' fall plans now set, here are some of the more dramatic time-period battles shaping up for next fall.
SUNDAYS AT 9 P.M.: "DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES" VS. "THREE RIVERS":
What could possibly lure female viewers away from ABC's top-rated soap? CBS has an idea: Ex-"Moonlight" star Alex O'Loughlin.
Prediction: ABC will win here, but CBS could make a bigger "Housewives" dent with "Rivers" than with "Cold Case" this season.
TUESDAYS AT 9 P.M.: "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE" VS. "DANCING WITH THE STARS":
ABC and Fox will go toe to toe on Tuesdays for dance supremacy. This pits the second hour of Fox's dancing performance show against ABC's dancing results show (with NBC's reality hit "The Biggest Loser" putting pressure on both).
Prediction: Performance shows are higher rated than results shows. But in total viewers, this will be no contest, with "Dancing" maneuvering Fox's fall newbie. In the key adults 18-49 demo, things could be closer, since "Dancing" has been showing a lot of drop off for its results shows this season. As long as Fox's "Dance" manages to pull the same rating it does in the summer, the network won't mind playing second fiddle.
WEDNESDAYS AT 8 P.M.: "HANK" AND "THE MIDDLE" VS. "OLD CHRISTINE" AND "GARY UNMARRIED":
It's not often you have comedies vs. comedies on broadcast anymore. Here, the sophomore run of CBS' modestly performing Wednesday comedy block will face the first half of ABC's ambitious new two-hour block, with 1990s sitcom stars Kelsey Grammar ("Hank") and Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Christine") going head-to-head.
Prediction: ABC has a shot here, but its sitcoms need to average higher ratings than the ones they launched in midseason to overthrow CBS.
THURSDAYS AT 8 P.M: "FLASH FORWARD" VS. "SURVIVOR," "BONES" AND NBC COMEDIES:
This is one of the oddest moves of the fall. A sci-fi'ish drama at 8 p.m. to lead into ABC's female-heavy medical soaps? But the more you look at this one, the more it makes sense. The show brings unique content to the hour. "Lost" (which ABC also launched at 8 p.m.) has repeatedly proved to ABC that it's a scheduling island; a drama largely ignoring its lead in and lead out. It's not unreasonable to think "Forward" could draw a stand-alone audience here.
Prediction: "Survivor" is still the favorite, but "Forward" will likely overthrow NBC's comedies and possibly "Bones" as well.
THURSDAYS AT 9 P.M.: "FRINGE" VS. TV'S TOUGHEST:
For its second season, Fox is taking "Fringe" from the most sheltered time period on broadcast (after "American Idol") to the most competitive (against CBS' "CSI," ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," and NBC's "The Office"). When the network put "Hell's Kitchen" here this season, executives embraced a lower rating for the popular reality show in exchange for a foothold on Thursdays, when ad rates are highest. But "Hell's" was a proven performer that gave viewers the only reality option in the slot. "Fringe" is less certain.
Prediction: "Fringe" won't embarrass itself -- a core group of fans will follow this show. But unless "CSI" continues to drop sharply, which is possible, the thriller will have a tough time unseating one of its three main competitors.
FRIDAYS AT 9 P.M.: "SOUTHLAND" VS. "MEDIUM" VS. "DOLLHOUSE" VS. "UGLY BETTY":
You're kidding, right? Is this lineup for real? This time slot is like The Island of Broken Toys. Suddenly there are four original scripted dramas on Fridays at 9 p.m. and all are castaways to some extent. NBC axed "Medium" and CBS snatched it up. ABC kicked "Betty" to the curb after the show fell below the line on Thursdays. NBC renewed new cop drama "Southland," then the show dropped in the ratings so the network booted it from Thursdays to here. And Fox's "Dollhouse" ... well, "Dollhouse" is a show that keeps ratings reporters up at night.
Prediction: "Medium" is such a perfect fit for this slot (nestled between CBS' top-rated "Ghost Whisperer" and "Numbers"), it's scary. Going against three scripted shows and getting a "Til Death" lead in isn't helping "Dollhouse." "Betty" will continue to soften. But "Southland" could do a decent number depending on its quality next season.
WEEKNIGHTS AT 10 P.M.: "THE JAY LENO SHOW" VS. ABC AND CBS DRAMAS: LENO VS. EVERYBODY!
The overall outcome is agreed upon: The talk-show veteran's new 10 p.m. chatfest will come in last place. But everybody wants to know: By how much?
Prediction: The first week should do pretty well due to curiosity. After that, the ratings are anybody's guess, with another mystery being how the rest of late night performs after Leno's leapfrog.