Fall TV schedules reveal some trends

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It's done. With Thursday's CW announcement (see Page C-6), the fall TV lineup is complete -- at least until one of the networks inevitably has second thoughts and changes the schedule that its executives just got done praising for its innovation/stability/youth appeal/upscale appeal.

So what trends can we foresee for the fall? Let's consider:

Comedy is king (again!)

CBS has created a two-hour comedy block on Thursday to rival NBC's two-hour comedy block. CBS offers a mix of new and returning shows; NBC offers low-rated "Parks and Recreation" and three new series. Granted, one of the NBC shows marks the return of Michael J. Fox, but it's hard to imagine CBS not winning this showdown.

Another comedy bloodbath?

9 p.m. Tuesday was a bloodbath last fall when ABC, NBC and Fox all aired young-skewing comedies at the same time. Although its ratings were not great, Fox is the only one still standing: NBC's "Go On" and "The New Normal" were canceled, as were ABC's "Happy Endings" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23."

In the upcoming season, Fox's returning comedies "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" face off against two ABC newcomers, "The Goldbergs" and "Trophy Wife." At midseason NBC plans to add "About a Boy" and "The Family Guide." Won't it be Comedy Bloodbath: The Sequel?

"Last year we had a lot of very similar comedies going into the same place," said ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee. "We believe we are playing to our strength with a big, blockbuster show at 8 ['Marvel's Agents of SHIELD'], and we're hoping to see great lead-out and we'll be promoting 'The Goldbergs' because we love it. So we think we're playing from strength and we have a chance to do something in a comedy that nobody's doing so we feel very strongly about that."

Other competitive time slots

Although networks have felt the sting of DVR playback at 10 p.m., they're making a competitive play particularly on Monday and Tuesday in that hour. On Monday, ABC veteran "Castle" faces off against newcomers "Hostages" on CBS and "The Blacklist" on NBC.

And on Tuesday at 10, CBS's "Person of Interest" moves to a new night, as does NBC's "Chicago Fire." They go up against freshman drama "Lucky 7" on ABC.

Action-adventure

NBC's "Revolution," which always felt like it might be a better family show than a gritty, "Walking Dead" wannabe for broadcast, moves to the 8 p.m. Wednesday time period. And its success, coupled with the success of The CW's "Arrow," may have opened the door to more action-adventure fantasy shows this fall, including ABC's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," The CW's "The Tomorrow People," Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and CBS's midseason entry "Intelligence."

Miniseries re-imagined

Fox made a lot out of its new "event series," including a 12-episode season of "24," but really these are shows that fall somewhere between a traditional miniseries and a short-order series.

ABC also talked up "limited series" of between eight and 12 episodes. And CBS announced that its new dramas "Hostages" and "Intelligence" would be 15-episodes each and would share the 10 p.m. Monday time slot.

In many ways, broadcast networks are taking a page from cable, where full seasons are often just 10 to 13 episodes. But there's also an added benefit from more series of shorter duration.

Fewer reruns

While viewers might want more episodes of their favorites, creating a one-hour TV drama is a grind. Many showrunners cite the shorter cable seasons as a reason they prefer working in cable over broadcast, and some broadcast showrunners, notably the husband-and-wife team behind CBS's "The Good Wife," have been agitating for a shorter season.

One way to accommodate networks' desire for more original episodes each season and the shorter seasons requested by some TV writers is to make more series with fewer episodes.

Consider CBS's 10 p.m. Monday plan. If "Hawaii Five-0" had stayed in that time slot, it would have aired at most 24 episodes a season. By having two shows share the time slot, CBS will get 30 weeks of original programming rather than just 24.

Limited series also can fill the gaps between seasons. ABC plans to offer two distinct uninterrupted runs of some shows, including "Scandal." And in between, alternate series may get a tryout.

TV everywhere

ABC and TNT/TBS announced plans this week to make an authenticated live stream of programming available on tablets and mobile devices this summer, and Fox may do the same. Despite ratings declines, broadcasters claim their content is actually more valuable than when broadcast ratings were higher.

"We're able to capture and provide value to our advertisers across every platform where our content is available," said Fox Sales president Toby Byrne.

CBS president Les Moonves also makes the compelling argument that cable networks would have much lower ratings without reruns of broadcast network hits.

"Broadcast [TV] is not an old medium being left behind by new ones," he told advertisers on Wednesday. "Far from it. We're at the center of it all; the media landscape would be barren without us."

And Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly echoed that sentiment with more specificity: He said same-day ratings are not the universe on which broadcasters should be judged; it is viewership over multiple platforms, including video on demand, online streaming and DVR playback.

"The vast majority of basic cable audience flow comes from off-network acquisitions; those are our series or feature films," Mr. Reilly said. "We cancel shows that most cable networks would declare a success and live with. That's the standard we live by. So, when we're talking about network television having a lot of failure, well, we have the bar set very high."

He said there were 1,050 original basic cable series on the air but only four of those programs are in the Top 50 of all TV programs.

CBS is not the geriatric network.

While it was certainly true at one time, CBS is no longer the Geritol network, regardless of how many times ABC's Jimmy Kimmel makes jokes to that effect. CBS was No. 1 in viewers ages 18-49 this season; ABC was No. 4, even behind NBC.

Channel surfing

USA's "Burn Notice" will end after a final season this summer that begins June 6. ... CBS's "The Young and the Restless" will air an episode to honor the late actress Jeanne Cooper on May 28 in the show's regular time slot. "Y&R" will deal with the death of her character, Kay Chancellor, later this year. ... Beginning Monday online streaming episodes of revived daytime soaps "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" will be released just twice each week; "OLTL" episodes will be released on Tuesday and Thursday, "AMC" episodes on Monday and Wednesday. ... TNT has renewed reality cop show "Boston's Finest" for a second season to air in 2014. ... ReelzChannel will air a never-before-aired third season of the canceled A&E series "Steven Seagal Lawman" in early 2014. ... A new Hispanic neighbor, Armando (Ismael Cruz Cordova), will be introduced in the 44th season of PBS's "Sesame Street" that begins Sept. 16. ... Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing has been named licensee for PBS's "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" from the Pittsburgh-based Fred Rogers Company. Simon & Schuster will produce story, picture, novelty, activity and coloring books. The first books will hit stores in early 2014. ... The Buda family of Mt. Lebanon -- including Chris, Andrew, JT, Mark and Trevor -- will compete Wednesday on "Family Feud" (7 p.m. weeknights, WPCW).

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Sherlock," "Mike & Molly" and "The Neighbors" and reviews the series finale of "The Office." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts of all the networks' fall schedule plans. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about the networks' new schedules, "Family Tree" and several season finales, including "Once Upon a Time" and "How I Met Your Mother." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

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TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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