Media buying experts weigh the 2007-08 season
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There will be winners and losers among the series this fall, but for the first time media services firm Magna Global has given up on sorting them out. Too often, the firm notes in its company newsletter, "Media Insights," networks renew series with ratings lower than the ones they cancel. A success on one network can be toast on another. With so many different standards, the company says, it's pointless to sort programs into "hits" and "misses," as it has done in the past. Those lists were "more relevant to the press than our clients anyway." Perhaps, but it's still valuable to go through the schedule and get expert opinion on how well the primetime pieces will hold together. Here, a look at the week ahead:
To size up the new fall shows, we assembled a panel of experts: Shari Anne Brill, senior vp and director of programming, Carat USA (New York); Bill Carroll, programming consultant, Katz Television Group (New York); Lisa Quan, vp and director of audience analysis, MAGNA Global (New York); Jack Myers, editor and publisher, JackMyers.com
Six new series bow on Monday, including three of the six new half-hour comedies. Each network has one new series, except NBC, which has two.
Chuck Lorre's "The Big Bang Theory" is wedged nicely between "How I Met Your Mother" and Lorre's "Two and a Half Men" in the CBS comedy block. Jack Myers says this is a tough season for sitcoms in general, but not for "Big Bang," thanks to the schedule.
CW's "Aliens in America" is the new addition to the CW comedy block. "It's hilarious," declares Shari Anne Brill. "It will do so well on that night in that block."
The third Monday comedy, most recently titled "Samantha Who?" is surrounded by reality shows. "If 'Dancing With the Stars' continues to do well, ABC will get some sampling for 'Samantha Who?' " Bill Carroll says. The 9:30 p.m. slot has been vulnerable for CBS, he added. That means "Samantha," despite its "strange position," could do well.
The four were less enthusiastic about NBC's "Chuck" and "Journeyman" and Fox's "K-Ville." As for the latter, Brill adds: "A lot of people were saying it was a very pessimistic show, a dark show, the people look depressed. Well, their city was destroyed. What do you want them to look like? Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?"
"Journeyman" could succeed, but there's a big "if" attached: "Its competition is going to come from (CBS') 'CSI: Miami,' which has been doing well against any other drama," says Lisa Quan. "It has the potential to do well there if they can divide the audience."
Each network except Fox has a new series on Tuesday; ABC has two.
"On Tuesday, there's nothing that really stands out in the way of new programming except for CW's 'Reaper,' " Myers says. "Following on 'Beauty and the Geek,' critics love it and it could be one of the breakout hits, especially with 18-to-34."
Brill says she's on the fence. "I like the pilot, but I'm not sure how the concept will play after several weeks."
"Cane" on CBS features Jimmy Smits and other stars; that will get it sampled, Quan says. "But we've always said that stars don't make shows -- shows make stars. The series will have to be very well-executed to come up against 'Law & Order: SVU.' "
Brill says that time period has been "a Bermuda Triangle" for CBS, but "Cane" is the best bet yet. "It has a great cast and I wish it could have gotten a better time slot."
NBC's modest summer hit, "The Singing Bee," will follow a 90-minute "Biggest Loser" and likely hold most of the lead-in, the analysts say.
ABC has two new comedies, "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers," and neither is expected to fare well. "I would be amazed if they survived although, I'll tell you, 'Caveman' is going to get a lot of sampling," Carroll says. "The awareness is very high but, at this point, it's very difficult to take what's really a one-joke premise and make that a series." Quan says "Carpoolers" would have more of a chance if it led off the hour.
Nine new series on Wednesday make it the most transformed night of the week. That's particularly true on ABC, which has new series throughout primetime. "It's kind of wide open," says Carroll.
"You've got two shows that are going to get viewing: (ABC's) 'Pushing Daisies' and (CBS') 'Kid Nation,' " Myers says. NBC's "Bionic Woman" also will be sampled.
Critics loved "Pushing Daisies," but the analysts were cautious. "It's a pretty tough show to explain," Carroll says.Brill has high hopes, while Quan isn't so sure.
"It certainly has a charm," she says. "But it's in a tough place and I'm not sure that type of quirkiness will appeal to a very broad audience."
ABC's "Private Practice," spun off from hit show "Grey's Anatomy," is no slam dunk. "It has a great cast and probably will do well, but it's going to have to perform," Myers says. "And if 'Pushing Daisies' does not give it a strong lead-in, it's going to be very difficult."
The fates of the two new 10 p.m. shows, ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money" and NBC's "Life," will be tied to the two new series that precede them, "Private Practice" and "Bionic Woman," respectively. The analysts detected interest in "Bionic Woman" but not a great deal of enthusiasm. "It's in a tough time slot," Quan says. "We have it down as one with some potential but not with the best potential."
Controversy over the use of children in a reality show will bring viewers to CBS' "Kid Nation" -- but then what? "Who's the target for this? Because the rest of the night skews old," Carroll wonders.
The night's other new reality series, "Kitchen Nightmares" on Fox, will draw fans of Gordon Ramsay, formerly of "Hell's Kitchen" fame. Besides, Brill says, "An inexpensive reality show is expendable and it provides counterprogramming for people who aren't interested in the four dramas at that hour."
"Back to You" on Fox, with sitcom vets Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, might do better on another network. "They're very funny," Carroll says, "but the Fox audience tends to look for things that are more edgy and that's a very traditional show." On the other hand, this is Fox's most female-friendly comedy ever and will attract women, Brill says.
As for CW's "Gossip Girl," rarely is there a better fit between network and program than this adaptation from the popular book series. This "could be a real winner," Myers says.
"It's right up their alley," Brill added.
Unless you count the Fox summer game show, "Don't Forget the Lyrics," the only new series is "Big Shots" on ABC. "Don't Forget" is in a good place, following popular "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" "Big Shots," however, has an uphill fight.
"It's going against two established shows," Carroll says, referring to CBS' "Without a Trace" and NBC's "ER." "It has a great cast and Dylan McDermott, but it's a tough time period."
On the other hand, Brill noted, it has ABC's best spot, behind "Grey's Anatomy." "Women will have McDreamy and McSteamy and then they'll get McDermott."
Four new series testify to a new effort to bring viewers back to the night. Two of the four are Fox reality series "Search for the Next Great American Band" and "Nashville."
"Fox has high hopes for 'Nashville' and they may be right," Carroll says. Myers agreed it could be a hit. Brill was skeptical. She put "American Band" in her "maybe" column but not "Nashville."
"I don't think people are going to be into a docudrama about people living in a house together and looking for fame and fortune," says Brill. "I don't see that as Fox's audience, but I understand why they have two music shows back to back."
Myers had doubts about "Women's Murder Club" on CBS. "If there's still an appetite for procedural crime, it could be a real winner; but I think scheduling it in there is going to be very tough for them."
Producers worked into the 11th hour to retool CBS' vampire drama, "Moonlight," which the analysts consider an ominous sign. Quips Brill, "Can I say this vampire show bites?"
Saturday is new-series free, which leaves it as the vast wasteland it's largely become in recent years. As for Sunday, the CW has three new series, but the one that has tongues wagging is CBS' "Viva Laughlin," a musical dramedy adapted from BBC's "Viva Blackpool."
"They're trying something totally outside the box for them," Quan says. "It's possible it will work."
Carroll says the audience is more accepting than when "Cop Rock" mixed drama and music 17 years ago. "I think now the audience will play along and see how it plays out," he says.
No way, Brill says. "Viewers will just find it too weird."
CW's combo of "CW Now" and "Online Nation" is an inexpensive way to capture the young target demo, analysts says. "Life Is Wild," shot in South Africa, is the CW's replacement for long-running "7th Heaven." "It will struggle," Brill predicted.
True, Carroll agrees, but "realistically, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
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