The new TV season officially starts Sept. 23, with shows sneaking in ahead of time. Here's the story I sent to papers, taking an overview. Coming up are breakdowns of the shows, from best to worst:
By MIKE HUGHES
A new season is about to start, pumping loads of fresh shows
into our TV sets.
Should we care? Is this still a big deal? It might not seem
like it, if you hear some people and statistics.
There’s Robert Greenblatt, NBC’s programming chief, boasting
that for one stretch, his network was the only one whose ratings weren’t down. “At this point in our business,” he said, “flat
is the new up.”
Or Les Moonves, the CBS CEO, admitting that last season’s
No. 1 show (among viewers under 50) wasn’t on a broadcast network or a fall
schedule. It was AMC’s zombie tale, “The Walking Dead.”
Or Kevin Reilly, Fox’s programming chief, disputing the
whole “new-season” notion. “It’s crazy that we launch 80-something (new and
returning) shows at once.”
Still, there’s a flip side that makes the broadcast networks
seen important. When you subtract “Walking Dead,” Moonves said, there are only
three cable shows that would reach the network top-50.
And when you include cable, Reilly said, viewing keeps
increasing; the average household now watches 157-and-a-half hours a month, a
two-hour increase. “People are loving television; it’s a dynamic time.”
People watch it on tiny phones or sprawling screens. They
also watch it overseas; at a four-day wake in Ireland, ABC programming chief
Paul Lee found people mostly discussing American shows.
That’s been reflected financially, Moonves said. In the past
six or seven years, the production wing of CBS and Showtime has seen its annual
international sales triple to $1.2 billion.
By accident or not, networks often try the things international
audiences prefer. There are epic, movie-style visuals and fantasy touches. CBS’
big summer hit was “Under the Dome”; this fall, ABC, Fox and CW each have two
new fantasy or supernatural shows.
Some dramas are trying shorter, serialized runs, in the
European style. Even “24” will shrink to 12 hours when it returns next May. And
after seeing Fox score with “The Following,” CBS grabbed a 15-hour, serialized
show. “’Hostages’ wouldn’t have gone on our network three years ago,” Moonves
CBS even gave “Hostages” a good Monday slot. “Hawaii Five-0”
was consigned to Fridays, Moonves granted, because it “skews a little bit
That reasoning pops up a lot, as advertisers push for
younger viewers. Jay Leno, leading late-night, will be replaced in February by
Jimmy Fallon. “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC’s biggest ratings hit, will be
trimmed to one night, making room for the fantasy fun of “Agents of
And comedies lean young, so they abound despite so-so
ratings. For the first time Thursdays will have four comedies apiece on CBS and
NBC, complete with Robin Williams, Michael J. Fox, Ashton Kutcher and the “Big
Bang Theory” crowd. Maybe the new season is a big deal, after all.