Fall TV 2018: Thursday Ratings Forecast for 'Murphy Brown,' 'Thursday Night Football,' 'Station 19' and More

Murphy Brown (CBS) - Troy Aikman Fox - Jaina Lee Ortiz on Station 19-Split-Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of CBS; FOX; ABC

As the 2018-19 season approaches, The Hollywood Reporter is handicapping the broadcast networks' chances for success on each night of the week. We'll look for potential breakouts (and flops), veterans with the best chance to improve (or stumble), and any intriguing time-period battles — inasmuch as those still matter in an on-demand world.

Thursday brings one wholesale change, at Fox, that will greatly improve the prospects for the network on the night. The others are largely status quo, which means a packed start to the night and some question marks elsewhere.

New shows and new nights

The night will feature one entirely new show, NBC's comedy I Feel Bad; one spinoff/franchise continuation in Legacies on The CW; and one revival, CBS' Murphy Brown. Law & Order: SVU moves from Wednesday nights for its 20th season on NBC, and Thursday Night Football moves to Fox after CBS and NBC shared rights the past two seasons.

Top-rated returnees
(All ratings are Live +7 for 2017-18 unless noted)

The Big Bang Theory, 4.4 in adults 18-49

Thursday Night Football, 4.3 (combined CBS/NBC average)

Grey's Anatomy and Young Sheldon (tie), 3.4

Top cable competition

The NFL Network's simulcast of Thursday Night Football will likely top the charts most weeks. Jersey Shore Family Vacation also draws solid 18-49 numbers for MTV.

Biggest makeover: Fox, obviously

It's going out on the shortest and sturdiest of limbs to predict that Fox will lead at least the same-day ratings in the fall now that it's secured rights to the full broadcast package for TNF (11 weeks starting Sept. 27). The NFL games will also give the network big year-over-year gains vs. the Gotham-The Orville combo from fall 2017. That's not a knock against those two shows, which had OK numbers last fall. The NFL is just a much bigger draw than almost anything else.

Potential breakout: 'Murphy Brown'

It seems odd to hang the "breakout" tag on the revival of a show that had a successful 10-year run from 1988-98. Revivals tend to draw sizable early audiences, however, and with a strong comedy block leading into its 9:30 time period, Murphy Brown is well situated to sustain decent ratings.

A secondary candidate might be season two of Station 19, which has the advantage of following Grey's Anatomy in the fall rather than in the less-trafficked spring months.

DVR overload: 8 p.m.

Football aside, the opening hour of primetime on Thursday features the night's three top-rated shows in The Big Bang Theory, Grey's Anatomy and Young Sheldon, a pair of cult comedies in Superstore and The Good Place and the evergreen Supernatural. That's a crowded hour.

The forecast

Football will bring Fox to the top of the ratings heap for the fall, but the other networks now have several years of experience going against at least a partial TNF slate and shouldn't worry too much.

The Big Bang Theory could get a bit of a final-season bump on CBS, and Young Sheldon had pretty good staying power last season. (Both shows will premiere Monday, Sept. 24, then move to their regular homes on Sept. 27.) CBS should hold up fine with Mom, Murphy Brown and SWAT completing the night.

That Grey's Anatomy is still among the five highest-rated dramas on TV as it enters its 15th season on ABC is remarkable. Station 19 might need to up its game some to have a long-term future. How to Get Away With Murder is reliable, if no longer a breakout hit.

NBC continues to play to its comedy niche, which likely doesn't mean big numbers for rookie I Feel Bad. The network could get a slight upgrade at 10 p.m. with SVU taking over for Chicago Fire. The new time period for SVU is its sixth over the course of the show's 20-year run.

Thursday was one of The CW's better nights last season, despite declines for Arrow. If Legacies is more like early Vampire Diaries than later Originals in terms of ratings, that will be the case again.