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The Trends Part 3: Less Reliance On The Super-Creator (UPDATED)

Welcome to The Trends! In this season, I talk about the general trends we saw come out of upfronts. If you missed the first two articles, they are found here:
Part 1: Renewing More Low-Rated Shows
Part 2: Massive Time Slot Upgrades to Newer Comedies

Every network has one or two super-creators. For example, ABC has Shonda Rhimes, who has given them Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Catch. Her shows used to be automatic pick-ups, and although she is still a super-creator, her popularity isn't what it was even a year ago. While President Channing Dungey mentioned she'd take what Shonda would give her, the second season of The Catch did even worse than the first, and got canceled. Her newest entry, Still Star-Crossed, is going to air over the summer and doesn't have a ton of promotion. While it is airing after The Bachelorette, that far from means automatic hit. She does have two shows on next season's schedule; upcoming law drama For The People, as well as a Chicago Fire-like Grey's Anatomy spinoff. If those shows don't do well, with Scandal ending and How to Get Away with Murder declining, Shonda Rhimes soon may not have the presence she once did. Of course, Grey's Anatomy is still going strong.


While Shonda Rhimes is ABC's only super-creator, they were very close to having two more in Goldbergs creator Adam Goldberg and Blackish creator Kenya Barris. Goldberg gave ABC their midseason comedy entry Imaginary Mary, which was fractional throughout its run and promptly got canceled. He also had in development a Goldbergs spin-off named Schooled, which was to take place in the 90s starring a tertiary character. It wasn't ordered, and Adam Goldberg will have to stay content with The Goldbergs, when he could have had three shows on the air. Kenya Barris had an even worse last couple weeks. His drama pilot Unit Zero was officially passed on, and prized possession Blackish will air on Tuesday now instead of the comfy post-Modern Family time slot that it's known for its three years on the air. Furthermore, while some considered political comedy Libby & Malcolm to be a frontrunner of the pilot season, ultimately it wasn't ordered to series. With both of those passed on, it seemed like the Blackish spin-off would receive a series order. While it did, the backdoor pilot wasn't overly well-received, and the show will air on Freeform where it will almost certainly see much lower ratings.

The above is a key art for Dick Wolf's newest Chicago series, Chicago Justice. He's been cranking out a new show every season, with Justice being the fourth show in the franchise. While its ratings were nothing to brag about on Sundays, they also seemingly weren't terrible. Regardless, it is in a unique situation where a week after NBC released their fall schedule, and it was just recently canceled. Meanwhile, four post-Voice occupants--dramas Taken and Timeless as well as comedies Trial & Error and Great News--have been renewed with lower ratings. Deadline mentioned that Chicago Fire and PD haven't sold into syndication, which has gotten NBC to rethink the whole Chicago plan and maybe downsize. Even breakout freshmen hit Chicago Med, which fizzled out in its move to Thursday but still did better than those post-Voice shows, did not make the fall schedule. Furthermore, Dick Wolf was planning on making a reality show called Law & Order: You the Jury, but between both the existence and failure of FOX's series You the Jury, the consensus is that it probably won't ever make it to air. Wolf can take solace in the fact that his anthology series Law & Order: True Crime will be airing after This is Us, though the shows do not seem to be thematically compatible and it isn't an automatic success. While Dick Wolf is doing better than the days where NBC canceled both Law & Order and new spin-off Law & Order: LA, it seems that a Chicago show is no longer an automatic renewal. It also shows that four shows of one franchise on the air at the same time may be too much, and Dick Wolf fans would rather see Law & Order take on the theme of law than a Chicago show.

Over on FOX, they were very close to having a comedy super-creator with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who became famous for directing The Lego Movie. With their first FOX show, The Last Man On Earth, becoming a breakout hit in spring 2015, FOX gave the green light to two more of their shows: half-animated, half-live action comedy Son of Zorn, which aired in that highly-coveted Sunday at 8:30 fall time slot; and time traveling comedy Making History. Most of Son of Zorn's run was masked by boosts from football overrun, but without it the show went lower than any other FOX comedy. Making History, meanwhile, premiered low and went lower. FOX rightfully canceled both shows, with The Last Man On Earth hanging in there for a 4th season, though it's no longer a breakout hit. At this point, if we're looking at super-creators at FOX, we should look at the slight resurgence of Seth MacFarlane. He recently lost both The Cleveland Show and American Dad (moved to TBS), and Bordertown was also abruptly canceled after just 13 episodes. With hour-long drama Orville on the fall schedule, MacFarlane will go back to having more than one show on the air. Lee Daniels is another one to watch; while Empire has fallen tremendously, it's still one of the biggest hits on television, and next season they will air the second season of his other music drama, Star, right after it to make up their Wednesday nights.

So to recap, Shonda Rhimes lost The Catch, Adam Goldberg and Kenya Barris didn't exactly have the pilot season they may have wanted, Dick Wolf went from four to two Chicago shows on the schedule, and Lord/Miller went from three and back to one. But Great News carries on. Great News, which comes from Tina Fey, recently hit a 0.7 A18-49 Live + Same Day demo airing directly after The Voice. Like fellow Fey products 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as well as fellow NBC comedy Superstore, Great News may have a solid streaming fanbase. Or NBC could be in love with Tina Fey and/or really, really hated The Sackett Sisters. Next season, it will air between Will & Grace and This is Us, anticipated to be a time slot that is the best NBC could offer a show in years. The story of Great News is so unprecedented that it has made it into all three installments of The Trends so far. It seems that NBC did not want to keep Tina Fey off the schedule, and gave Great News the treatment not given to The Catch, Libby & Malcolm, Chicago Justice, Son of Zorn, etc. Also, there is Greg Berlanti, who has given The CW Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale, and the upcoming Black Lightning. He also has Blindspot still kicking at NBC despite the ratings not being what they used to be. Berlanti's shows make up half of The CW's fall schedule, and it doesn't seem like he'll stop any time soon.While his production company had some shows pitched to other networks that weren't ordered to series, he's still right up there with the ranks of Shonda, Wolf, and co.

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