Now that the Tetris tiles of the 2013–14 TV schedule have dropped into place, a number of intriguing programming showdowns await. With 51 new scripted series slated to premiere in the coming season, the newcomers will be fighting for their lives against established hits and fellow freshman shows. Here are the five time slots that are likely to kick up the most dust:
Monday 9-10 PM
Sleepy Hollow (Fox) vs. The Voice (NBC) vs. Dancing With the Stars (ABC) vs. Mom and Two Broke Girls (CBS).
Familiarity may breed contempt, but doubling down on The Voice hasn’t eroded its popularity—yet. Meanwhile, there’s nothing at all familiar about the deliriously over-the-top Sleepy Hollow, which features a homicidal headless equestrian and George Washington’s secret Bible. NBC will win the hour handily over DVR-bait Sleepy, CBS’ comedy battery and the creaky DWTS.
Monday 10-11 PM
The Blacklist (NBC) vs. Hostages/Intelligence (CBS) vs. Castle (ABC).
CBS’ scorched-earth policy pits its suspenseful new fall drama against NBC’s ambiguous thriller, its most intriguing freshman series. CBS will win, because win is what it does, although ABC will continue to dominate with women 25-54.
Tuesday 8-9 PM
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) vs. NCIS (CBS) vs. Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox).
The unsinkable NCIS will win the war for total reach, but it’s unlikely that any broadcast show can touch Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. among the 18-49 set. Gentlemen, start your DVRs—since the Fox comedies (respectively, Seth MacFarlane and Andy Samberg vehicles) will almost certainly overlap S.H.I.E.L.D. among younger males, time-shifted viewing will be particularly significant in the hour.
Tuesday 9-10 PM
(Midseason) New Girl and The Mindy Project (Fox) vs.About a Boy< and The Family Guide (NBC) vs.The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife (ABC).
When these three networks constructed a similar comedy roadblock in the 2012-13 season, a war of attrition broke out, leaving Fox’s female-skewing sitcoms the sole survivors. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it; although the competition is much tougher than it was a year ago, look for Fox to eke out another narrow victory over the newbies.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC) vs. The Big Bang Theory and The Millers (CBS) vs. Parks and Recreation and Welcome to the Family (NBC).
While it’s disheartening that Margo Martindale ditched FX (The Americans, Justified) for this crass comedy from Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia, CBS viewers seem to actively enjoy jokes about breaking wind and, uh, roughing up the suspect. Good thing, too, because The Millers is particularly enamored with both strains of bodily-emission yuks. Of course, in the post-Big Bang Theory slot, CBS could just as well air 22 minutes of drowning-puppy footage and still pull a 4.0, and NBC’s new sitcom Welcome to the Family probably won’t do anything to change that. ABC will exorcise its demons with the Once Upon a Time spinoff, but Wonderland isn’t expected to take any share away from CBS.