Fall TV Breakdown: Wednesdays

Still cranking through the week, just ahead of most of the new crop…

The Wednesday lineup (new shows in blue)

  7/8 8/9 9/10
ABC Dancing With The Stars Lost The Nine
CBS Jericho Criminal Minds
CW America’s Next Top Model One Tree Hill
FOX Bones Justice
NBC 30 Rock (7/8) 20 Good Years (7.30/8.30) The Biggest Loser Kidnapped

All kinds of stuff on the air tonight, especially in the first hour, where everything from dancing B-list celebrities to wacky sitcoms to post-apocalyptic mayhem can be found. This is again ABC’s night to lose, but not without its risks.

I honestly don’t get the appeal of Dancing With The Stars (and I’ve even taken dance lessons on occasion), but it seems to work well thus far for ABC (though Fox started the extraordinarily clever twice-weekly reality-competition formula with American Idol). Lost, however, I do get. It’s the kind of show that vanished in indifference so often in the past, but this time around somehow hit the buzzometer dead on to become not only one of the most popular and most discussed series of recent years, but also one of the most intriguing to critics (e.g., Jason Mittell’s Flow articles, here and here). The decision this year to break up the episodes into two pods (of six and seveteen episodes, respectively), and not air any repeats, is well warranted, and hopefully bears enough fruit for ABC to incite similar scheduling strategies elsewhere.

Lost‘s biggest impact, as with so many sudden hit iconoclastic shows, has been in series development. This year, as with last, is awash in cryptic, don’t-miss-an-episode, tightly threaded serial narratives, including three on this night. All of them bear some intrigue, but an interesting question to consider is how much of this will work within the still-pressing model of television succes (i.e., ratings in key demos). In other words, how many serials will people Nielsen viewers follow weekly? Will intense followings elsewhere (e.g., in blogs, webisodes, download sales, etc.) be enough to offset weak ratings? They weren’t last year, when several of these shows died. Tellingly, the networks are already placing bets against the success of these shows, if the procedural-heavy 2007-08 development slate is to be believed.

Local context, i.e., what’s around them in the schedule, is important to these shows, which is why ABC’s The Nine and even CBS’ uncharacteristically bleak Jericho stand a decent shot at making it. Both are attached to already competitive, similar in tone line-ups. Not so the case with NBC’s Kidnapped, which follows the moderately successful and entirely incompatible The Biggest Loser, and will need massive heapings of buzz to stand a chance against both The Nine and the pretty, necrophilic comfort food that is CSI:NY.

Outside the serial/crime drama scene, the pickings are still competitive, with the CW’s Top Model (apparently my Mom’s favorite reality show!) more than holding its own. Again, NBC’s rolling the dice big-time with their new sitcoms (memo to Jeff Zucker: I’ll give the combo of Lithgow and Tambor the benefit of the doubt, but it’s never a good sign when you’re relying on recent SNL alumni to anchor a prime-time schedule). Both of these shows need to hit fast, or the whole night’s a wash for the Peacock.

Likely winner: ABC and the Hanso Foundation
Runner-up: CBS
The (Biggest) Loser: NBC


2 Responses to “Fall TV Breakdown: Wednesdays”

  1. Jason Davis Says:

    For me, the most interesting thing about concept-heavy serialized dramas like THE NINE (and 24 and PRISON BREAK) is how they re-format themselves for season two…assuming they make it that far (I’m looking at you, REUNION).

  2. Travis Says:

    Yeah, ABC probably has me on Wednesday. With The Amazing Race going to Sunday’s it leaves Wednesday wide open.

    I will be starting the night out with Jericho then complete it with Lost. I thought Kidnapped might be good, but after the first episode, I just found that it missed something.

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