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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.
Friday brings one of the more publicized changes to network TV for the season with the revival and network switch of Last Man Standing — now on Fox after six seasons at ABC, last in 2016-17. A strong and stable CBS lineup and a return of ABC’s “TGIF” branding also feature on the night.
New shows and new nights
Friday will feature just one first-year show, Fox’s comedy The Cool Kids, but several series are relocating. Last Man Standing is back from a year off the air at the same time, 8 p.m., but on a different network — Fox rather than ABC. Hell’s Kitchen moves back an hour to 9 p.m. on Fox.
ABC, for its part, is moving Fresh off the Boat and Speechless from midweek berths, and in turn pushing game show Child Support to 9 p.m., an hour later than its initial run in early 2018. Midnight, Texas joins NBC’s Friday slate after airing its first season on Mondays in summer 2017.
(All ratings are Live +7 for 2017-18 unless noted)
Last Man Standing, 1.7 (on ABC in 2016-17)
Hawaii Five-0 and Speechless (tie), 1.6 (Speechless aired on Wednesday in 2017-18)
Blue Bloods, 1.5
Top cable competition
Friday is a fairly quiet night on cable. A&E’s Live PD is typically the top original show in primetime, with same-day adults 18-49 ratings in the 0.7 range.
Biggest makeovers: ABC and Fox
These two networks win by default, as CBS, The CW and NBC made few or no changes. Nonetheless, both ABC and Fox did shake things up significantly.
After five seasons of a comedy block leading into Shark Tank, ABC tried dramas on Fridays in 2017-18. It didn’t work. The final season of Once Upon a Time fizzled, and Agents of SHIELD suffered significant year-to-year declines. One bright spot was the debut of Child Support, which had decent numbers in a brief winter run. It will follow Fresh off the Boat and Speechless, and ABC has revived its TGIF banner for the family-friendly block.
Fox, meanwhile, has half-hour comedies on Fridays for the first time since spring 2014 as it tries to go broader. Last Man Standing was a pretty strong performer for ABC in the 8 p.m. spot, so it makes sense for Fox to put the show back there. The Cool Kids will have a hammock spot between Last Man and the reliable Hell’s Kitchen, which led the 8 o’clock hour in adults 18-49 in 2017-18.
Potential breakout: Not applicable
Friday is not the place where broadcast networks put shows they think will draw big ratings and big buzz.
DVR overload: The whole night, really
Fewer people watch TV on Friday than most other nights — usage on the night is about 30 percent lower vs. Sunday through Thursday in recent seasons. Every Friday scripted show on the big four networks last season grew its 18-49 rating by at least 50 percent with a week of delayed viewing.
CBS didn’t do anything to its MacGyver/Hawaii Five-0/Blue Bloods lineup, for good reason: It works. The network led the night across the board in 2017-18, and while the 18-49 race may be tighter this season, CBS should easily lead its target demo of adults 25-54 and the total viewer count again.
Fox will almost certainly get an upgrade as well, even if Last Man Standing can’t replicate its numbers from two seasons ago (a big ask for any show that’s been off the air for 18 months). The Exorcist was among the lowest-rated shows on the big four last season, so Last Man and The Cool Kids don’t have a huge hurdle to clear.
Fresh off the Boat and Speechless were bubble shows last season for ABC, but if they show any traction in their new home, they could set up for decent runs on a night where lower ratings are expected. OUAT averaged a 0.5 in the demo in live + same-day ratings last year; the two comedies ought to be able to clear that, or ABC has some real issues.
NBC’s Blindspot found a niche on Fridays last season and tied MacGyver in adults 18-49 in the Live +7 ratings. Midnight, Texas could be a stable presence at 9 p.m., though it likely won’t draw big ratings (both shows premiere in late October). The final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will probably turn out consistent 0.2-0.3 ratings on The CW. As for Dynasty, The CW and CBS Studios make their money on the show elsewhere. Unless literally no one watches the first run, it should be fine.
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