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The Trends Part 2: Massive Time Slot Upgrades to Newer Comedies


Welcome to The Trends! In this segment, I discuss some of the trends that we saw in the madness that was early-to-mid-May 2017. This second segment focuses on giving returning comedies massive time slot upgrades.

Many times, when networks see a lot of untapped potential in a show, they move it to a better time slot and hope the show improves. It worked yesteryear with Seinfeld, it worked a couple years ago with The Goldbergs, and next fall there are three comedies getting the same treatment: the second seasons of American Housewife on ABC and Great News on NBC, and the third season Superstore on NBC.

Back when it was a pilot named The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, American Housewife is the show that I thought was going to be scheduled behind Modern Family due to Blackish moving to Tuesday. I was wrong. In fact, The Middle moved to Tuesday to launch American Housewife while Blackish stayed put. This year is different; Blackish is now airing Tuesday at 9pm, and to pretty much everyone's surprise, American Housewife got the post-Modern Family time slot. This mostly shows that ABC wasn't too into their family comedy pilots, given none of them even made the fall schedule. Since Blackish is now about to get to syndication, ABC seems to be protecting fellow ABC Studios comedy American Housewife now. With Modern Family renewed for a ninth and tenth season, American Housewife can really be nurtured if ABC wants to go that route. While it did well in its first season, getting great retention out of The Middle, is wasn't a show that screamed 8 seasons and anchor material. ABC is attempting to change that by putting new life into the show; in fact, it's entirely possible that it ends up being Modern Family's heir. That being said, we have to remember that they once moved Suburgatory behind Modern Family in its second season and it didn't improve, so maybe the same will happen here. Either way, it's great that they're trying to make it their next big hit.

NBC didn't exactly seem too high on Superstore's chances in its first season, asking it to start of Monday nights when The Voice was on hiatus. Maybe they trusted it more so than Telenovela, but they still liked their dramas better to take up the more high-profile time slots. It ended up being a surprise success; while not a breakout hit, enough to be the most successful NBC comedy since the final season of The Office. Needless to say, it received a huge promotional push over the summer. It was advertised non-stop during the Olympics, and even aired a special Olympic-themed episode directly after the coverage of one of the nights. NBC also used the show as a platform to do their annual "take a look at our new schedule" special that they do online a little bit before the season begins. They also used its second season to start off a revamped Thursday night (a different revamped Thursday night than they did the year before and now the year after). While it started off OK, its spring numbers dipped below a 1.0 in Live + Same Day A18-49, and it wasn't exactly an honor to get to air after it. Supposedly its first season did really well in streaming, even beating The Voice in total ratings. This move to Tuesday behind The Voice seems like a move to get its Live + Same Day ratings up. It has a long way to go until syndication, and staying at Thursday at 8 was not going to get it there. It seems that they're still not giving up on making this show the heir to The Office.

However, Superstore's upgraded time slot isn't even the largest upgrade that NBC gave one of their comedies this season. That title goes to the Tina Fey-produced Great News, a show that was also discussed in The Trends Part 1 (found if you click here). The show struggled massively behind The Voice this season, an already great time slot, but is getting a second chance in the fall. This time, it will air between the revival of Will & Grace and breakout hit This is Us. It really has no excuse now, and should be up tremendously in the ratings to be considered a success. It's quite possible it had good streaming numbers; after all, fellow Tina Fey production Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is about to return to Netflix for a third season despite NBC realizing it wasn't going to find a large audience if aired on the network as initially planned. 

It's an interesting trend overall; in the 2014-15 season, we saw The Goldbergs, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Mom get massive time slot upgrades, all so-so rated freshmen shows which are now about to enter their fifth season as a result. There was nothing of that type in the two seasons to follow, and now we're seeing it happen again. The difference is while many saw the potential The Goldbergs would have if aired between The Middle and Modern Family, the Internet was blindsided by American Housewife moving behind Modern Family, and Great News even getting renewed.

It is also notable that the big time slot upgrades are going to comedies. Like we saw this season, moving a drama past its freshmen season to a better time slot may not always work out like one would hope (see: Quantico). Comedies are much easier to grow if given better time slots and a big promotional push, and it's quite possible that more than one of these shows will be alive and well in 2020. It reinforces the notion that comedies have a lot of value to advertisers and can be long-term investments, even if they don't live up to their full potential right out of the gate.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!