BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- You wouldn't know to look at tonight's prime-time schedule -- ABC premieres new seasons of the reality show "Shark Tank" (8 p.m., WTAE) and newsmagazines "What Would You Do?" (9 p.m.) and "20/20" (10 p.m.) -- but the broadcast networks continue to work to reclaim Friday night for scripted programs.
Of the 13 Friday night times slots across five networks this fall, nine will be given over to scripted shows, up from eight last year (in 2008 just six Friday night shows were scripted). Most of the scripted shows airing on Friday are returning series that already have a following.
CBS never gave up on Friday as a destination for scripted shows. "CSI: NY" (8 p.m., KDKA) and "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m.) return with new episodes Sept. 28, and they'll be joined by a new light legal drama, "Made in Jersey."
NBC had success with "Grimm" on Fridays last season, and it returns to Fridays at 9 with new episodes Sept. 28 on WPXI. Later this month Fox premieres the final season of "Fringe" (9 p.m. Sept. 28, WPGH), and it's joined next month by the returning Kiefer Sutherland drama "Touch" (8 p.m. Oct. 26). The CW has used scripted dramas on Friday for a number of seasons and will again program "Nikita" at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 19.
Even ABC will add scripted comedies "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m.) and newcomer "Malibu Country" (8:30 p.m.) on Nov. 2.
Why are networks no longer treating Friday like a dumping ground? Simple: They learned from what happened to Saturday.
"When you write off Saturday, and Sunday for us is football for two-thirds of the season, if you write off Friday you're looking at four days [to program in prime time], which is not much to play with," said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt at an NBC party during July's Television Critics Association summer press tour. "I grew up when Saturday was a great night for TV, the CBS lineup with 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.' I get why that's not the case anymore, but Friday should not be written off."
For Fox, giving up on Friday would be even more limiting because Fox programs just two hours in prime time weeknights.
"I don't want to give away a night there are millions of people watching television," said Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly. "I think the DVR has been a real help because people can pick up shows they like whether they watch TV on Friday or not. That certainly has been the case with 'Fringe.'
"We let Saturday nights slip away slowly over the years as an industry," Mr. Reilly continued. "I think we created a self-fulfilling prophecy for what used to be the biggest night of television and still is in many parts of the world. In the UK [Saturday] is still the biggest night of television. So I know for Fox and other networks, we didn't want that to happen to Friday nights. It's very valuable real estate and I'm glad to see people throw in."
ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee sees the addition of comedy to Friday's ABC schedule in November as an effort to hark back to ABC's TGIF lineup that was popularized in the 1980s.
"I've always had a glint in my eye to bring family comedy back to Friday," he said. "The audience is there for it -- the older and younger audience is both there -- and we have a storied history on Friday."
In early fall there will be just one freshman series on Friday, CBS's "Made in Jersey," which debuts two weeks from tonight at 9 on KDKA-TV. It's a fairly generic CBS procedural about a working-class woman, Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery), who uses Jersey-bred street smarts in her job as a new lawyer at a well-heeled Manhattan law firm.
Her more experienced, Manhattanite co-workers look down on her, but firm founder Donovan Stark (Kyle MacLachlan, "Desperate Housewives") takes notice of her resourcefulness.
Back at home in Jersey, Martina's extended family home life -- including her mom (Donna Murphy) and sister (Erin Cummings) -- bring to mind the familial situations from another Jersey-set, Friday night CBS show: "That's Life" (2000-02).
"Made in Jersey" is comfortable TV pabulum that's sure to find some admirers, but it feels hollow as it lacks a fresh point of view. Perhaps that will be remedied in future episodes when new cast members are added if the established characters get a chance to develop beyond bland stereotypes.
After refusing to budge in their position just a month ago, CBS executives changed course this week and decided to make their Sunday lineup more viewer-friendly this fall.
On Sundays with a NFL doubleheader -- Sept. 16 and 23, Oct. 7 and 21, Nov. 4 and 18, Dec. 2, 16 and 30 -- CBS will re-schedule the start time of its prime-time shows with "60 Minutes" at 7:30 p.m. and continuing through to "The Mentalist" at 10:30 p.m. rather than the traditional on-the-hour start time that inevitably gets delayed by football overruns.
This may alleviate the problem of viewers trying to find the start times for shows delayed by NFL coverage, but it won't necessarily eliminate the problem altogether if games run beyond 7:30 p.m. Viewers would still be wise to set their DVRs to record longer than an hour and sign up for CBS Eye-lerts (www.cbs.com/eye-lerts), which now offer the additional ability to sign up for SMS texts, Twitter tweets and Facebook updates.
Still, this move marks a reversal from late July when CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said football overruns are "great for us because our [ratings] numbers are up across the entire night" while emphasizing the network's attempts to find ways to notify viewers of delayed start times.
British TV fans in Pittsburgh, take note: WQED has chosen to freshen its Saturday night lineup of British imports with something new rather than another round of the moldly oldies.
"Doc Martin," a hit on other PBS stations stateside, will finally air in Pittsburgh. This comedy-drama follows a London surgeon who develops a fear of blood and moves to a small village where he takes over a disorganized medical practice.
"Doc Martin" will air on WQED at 9 p.m. Saturday starting this weekend.
As viewers gear up for the new TV season, I'll offer a PGU course called TV 101, 7-9 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Downtown.
We'll discuss how TV shows get developed, why shows are put on the air, why they're canceled and how the TV business works generally. We'll watch clips from shows that have been retooled, and of course there will be time for a live TV Q&A session.
The cost is $35 and you can register online at http://old.post-gazette.com/PGU/ or by calling 412-263-1302.
In the syndicated daytime talk show wars, "Katie" got off to a strong start Monday in the ratings, tying the premiere of "Rachael Ray's" debut in 2006, according to Broadcasting & Cable. "Steve Harvey" came in No. 2 among new daytime talk shows Monday, followed by "The Jeff Probst Show" and "The Ricki Lake Show." ... Three new episodes of "Foyle's War" will air on PBS's "Masterpiece Mystery!" next summer. ... Reruns of "NUMB3RS" will air on Hallmark Channel at 8 and 9 p.m. Mondays beginning Oct. 1. ... TLC's season premiere of "Long Island Medium" and the series premiere of "Breaking Amish" gave the network its highest-rated Sunday night in eight years. ... MTV renewed "Ridiculousness" for a third season of 20 episodes; Oxygen ordered a second season of "I'm Having Their Baby"; "The Glades" will return to A&E next year for a fourth season; and Showtime gave a green light to a nine-episode third season of "Episodes." ... New episodes of "South Park" begin airing at 10 p.m. Sept. 26. ... Comcast has launched beIN Sport (Channel 581), a Spanish language feed of a soccer channel, on its Multi Latino and Sports & Entertainment tiers. The English language feed will join at a later date. ... A Pittsburgh family headed by Glenn and Marsha Grayson will compete next week on "Family Feud" (7:30 p.m. Thursday, WPCW) to raise money for the Jeron Xavier Grayson Community Center in honor of their son who was killed at a post-homecoming party in 2010 near California University of Pennsylvania.
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "The Glades," "NCIS" and "Hell on Wheels." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Sons of Anarchy," "Guys With Kids" and "The X Factor," "Damages" and "Glee." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about the new fall TV season, "Bunheads" and "Broadway or Bust." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. An item in this column first appeared online in Tuned In Journal.