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The Sitcom Explained Part III: What Happens If Modern Family Ends?


Written by Bridger Cunningham

The inevitable shows its age, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.  Like our faces, time marches across our shows and we face the question of how long will our shows last.  Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory are both in their 8th-10th seasons, and all could run for at least two more seasons given the current writing and plotting.  Last Man Standing and 2 Broke Girls are our next set of junior veterans, yet only Last Man Standing appears to have a plan to get to its 8th season.  If these shows defect or are cut by the networks, how much collateral damage will form?  The Big Bang ending would cause surefire damage, as CBS' 2nd and 3rd place sitcoms added together do not add up to The Big Bang's current average.  Over at ABC, Modern Family leaving Wednesdays would cause an initial blow, yet ABC seems to be shopping around for a survival plan.  Recently, Fresh Off The Boat aired in a plum 8pm showing.  It's 1.5 rating did not hold a candle to The Goldberg's 1.84 average.  Whilst this shows Fresh Off The Boat deserves a new home, it also shows the network will march on if Modern Family ends this season.

Hypothetically, ABC sits in a nice position in the sitcom department.  8 of its 10 showings are a success, and they have three anchor evenings to showcase these sitcoms.  It would appear if MF exited, The Goldbergs would slide into the 9pm hour, moving the successful Speechless back 30 minutes and rebuilding their schedule.  The pre-9pm hour appears to be a golden opportunity to build a show's viewing, as people eagerly anticipate the 9pm victory showing.  Contenders for the 8:30 show could be an existing, neglected veteran such as Fresh Off The Boat or a new helping of shows.  blackish may remain on this evening, but also has potential to rebuild another evening.  Another possibility would be to sample Dr. Ken on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  The lowest-rated among the 28 sitcoms on the air, it would be an ample opportunity to see if this show has staying power.  Wednesday would be a wasted opportunity, as Dr. Ken would likely score around a 1.2-1.3.  However, one must question if they would improve the back end of Tuesdays, with The Real O'Neals weighing down the 9:30 timeslot.

So what happens to ABC's scripted average if MF deflects?  As broken down in article one, ABC averages a 1.49 for its 10 sitcoms.  Minus Modern Family, that is a 1.4, which is a minor loss.  Beyond that, ABC needs to question which of its shows are its strongest.  The Goldberg's is currently the next contender, and is also a mainstay on Wednesdays.  Speechless follows as the network's next success that evening, and The Middle and American Housewife faithfully deliver viewers on Tuesdays.  Last Man Standing manages to anchor Fridays, so there are ABC's five big players in rebuilding a post-Modern Family schedule.  So where does that leave the remainder of its shows?  blackish is topical and garnering heavy press for its heavy materials and appears to hold its own with ratings.  Over on Tuesdays, The Middle and American Housewife are bolstering this middling night.  Fresh Off The Boat scores, well okay.  And The Real O'Neals does not appear to be enriching the ratings.  Over on Fridays, Dr. Ken always rests a shadow under Last Man Standing.  

Tuesdays start high at 8pm, then plunge into the abyss by 10pm.  Wednesdays range up and down like a rich landscape, and Friday has a pothole in the shape of 9:30.  The landscape needs more terrain in viewing habits.  The Middle and American Housewife have conquered part of Tuesdays, so American Housewife deserves a plum timeslot at 9pm.  Fresh Off The Boat may do okay at 9:30, but has shown it has greater potential off of Tuesdays.  Perhaps ABC would be wise to build a new sitcom at 8:30, and allow Dr. Ken to take on a timeslot which it would pull in a 1.1-1.3 at 9:30.  As mentioned above, Wednesdays could upgrade Speechless to 8pm and launch a new fare at 8:30, nestled between Speechless and Goldbergs.  And perhaps give Fresh Off The Boat some exposure at 9:30.  So what about blackish?  The show has enjoyed three seasons nestled behind Modern Family and has enough press to follow it.  Why not move it to Fridays at 8:30?  Even if the show dips to the 1.1-1.3 range, it could help ABC plan for when Last Man Standing Bows out.  Two strong sitcoms will get people caring about Fridays again, and perhaps pave the way for the planned blackish spinoff centered on Zoe.

Odds are in ABC's favor to have Modern Family return, and viewers would welcome it.  The show averages a 2.29 rating and is still a welcome staple.  And if the show goes, ABC still has several venerable players to keep the franchise going.  Whether MF stays or goes, ABC needs another shakeup to allow the neglected to gain exposure (FOTB), the fortunate to lift their weight and try out a new space (blackish),  the less sought shows to try out a new home (Dr. Ken) and the dead weight to be shed (O'Neal's).  Whether MF is here in 2018, ABC is going to be okay.  With its sitcoms, that is.