The new season gets off to a decidedly devilish start as ABC pulls the wrapper off its 10 p.m. drama 666 Park Avenue. A blend of horror and real estate porn, 666 shares more than a little DNA with the film Rosemary’s Baby, only the action has been shifted to the Upper East Side and Satan is no longer in the business of inseminating ingenues. Lost alum Terry O’Quinn balances the curdled menace of his old Smoke Monster role with the moral ambiguity of Fantasy Island’s Mr. Roarke, while Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor are the human element amid the show’s baroque horrors.
Leading out of two of last season’s surprise hits (Once Upon a Time and Revenge), 666 is a diabolically goofy fun house and a perfect capper to ABC’s dark and stormy night. “This show brings ABC one step closer to stealing The CW’s audience,” says Amy Parsons, media investments supervisor at Campbell Mithun. “It’s well situated to capture a viewer who’s going to stay tuned to ABC all night, and I think a lot of people will do just that.”
Monday is the keystone of NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt’s Tetris-like revival strategy, which is why his most ambitious new effort sits in what is arguably the Peacock’s most valuable time slot. Leading out of The Voice at 10 p.m., Revolution is shot through with J.J. Abrams’ signature tropes—mystery! dystopia! cheekbones!—while indulging in all the fripperies of the Crossbow Zeitgeist. (Archery is the new zombie apocalypse.)
According to Gary Reisman, co-founder and principal in the research and marketing firm NewMediaMetrics, Revolution will not only be a breakout hit for NBC but should also generate piles of revenue from auto, retail and QSR clients. (Buyers eyeball the average unit price of a spot in Revolution at around $140,000.)
The two other new Monday night series aren’t nearly as promising. One media buyer characterized the generically titled The Mob Doctor as “preposterous,” adding that the Jordana Spiro drama is likely to disappear once Fox is ready to pull the trigger on the superb midseason thriller The Following. Meanwhile, the only saving grace of the “tired” and “not even a little bit funny” CBS comedy Partners is its plum positioning as the creamy filling in the How I Met Your Mother-2 Broke Girls Oreo. But don’t weep for CBS. The network has so many hits on its hands that last season it canceled the fifth highest rated scripted series on TV (¡Rob!) after an eight-episode run.
In what amounts to a comedy roadblock, three of the Big Four broadcast networks will air comedies in the Tuesday 9-10 p.m. slot. The Matthew Perry vehicle Go On will set the table for fellow freshman sitcom The New Normal, while ABC will counter with the anarchic one-two punch of Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23. In the second half of its new two-hour comedy block, Fox stacks the deck with the returning hit New Girl and Mindy Kaling’s charming single-camera comedy The Mindy Project.
While comedy lovers may be in for an embarrassment of chuckles, the everyone-in-the-pool approach could actually have some decidedly unfunny consequences. “It’s always nice to have options, but we’re going to see a lot of cannibalization in that hour,” says Sam Armando, svp, director of strategic intelligence at Starcom MediaVest Group Exchange. “Fox may have an advantage because of New Girl, but we’ll have to see how strong it is when it comes back.”
The early returns for the NBC comedies are encouraging. Per Nielsen, Go On in its Sept. 11 time slot premiere delivered 9.73 million viewers and a 3.4 rating in the 18-to-49 demo, while The New Normal averaged 6.96 million viewers and a 2.5 rating.
On the drama front, CBS rolls out the cowboys-and-mobsters series Vegas at 10 p.m., while The CW preps its new medical potboiler Emily Owens, M.D., at 9 p.m. Starring Michael Chiklis as a gangster with an eye for detail and Dennis Quaid in his first TV role, Vegas marries two of the medium’s enduring devices: organized crime and the period piece. While most of those surveyed raved about the pilot, one buyer sounded a cautious note: “Period dramas don’t work on broadcast TV. We saw it last season with Pan Am and The Playboy Club. A few years before, it was Swingtown. This could be more of the same.” For his part, Reisman notes Vegas tested as one of the most engaging new series, predicting that its subject matter and competition (ABC’s Private Practice and NBC’s Parenthood) will make Vegas a huge hit with men. Cost of entry: around $160,000 a pop.
Hump Day has the dubious distinction of featuring three of the least-loved new series on the fall schedule. ABC’s The Neighbors is like an unholy mashup of Third Rock From the Sun and ALF, and while it will enjoy a high-profile role in the alphabet net’s two-hour comedy block, it’s been bumped from the juicy post-Modern Family slot in favor of sophomore hit Suburgatory. Thirty years after Mr. Mom examined the plight of the stay-at-home dad, the infantile Guys With Kids leads out of NBC’s monkey veterinarian curiosity Animal Practice. While Practice is the very definition of lowbrow, a special post-Olympics preview was well sampled, delivering 12.8 million viewers and a 4.1 rating. “It’s a silly premise, on the lowest rated network, on a very tough night, but if NBC were to move it to another night, this could be a modest success,” says Noah Everist, associate director of media investments at Campbell Mithun.
Of the three new dramas on the slate, The CW’s Arrow perhaps has the most potential to move the needle. Based on the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow (archery!), this dark and brawling thriller is designed to expand the network’s audience beyond the Hot Topic set. “Arrow blends the formulaic necessities of the genre with a hipster factor to which The CW viewers will relate and aspire,” Parsons says. “It also boasts oodles of impossibly beautiful young people.” And with a unit cost of around $48,000, it’s a steal!
Shawn Ryan’s rogue-nukes thriller Last Resort represents a fascinating departure for ABC, which specializes in big-hearted, female-friendly drama. In the post-Ugly Betty era, the 8 p.m. slot has been a ghost town, and while it may not jibe with Grey’s Anatomy fans, buyers believe the DVR will double Last Resort‘s live deliveries. On CBS, the latest in an endless line of Sherlock Holmes reboots (Elementary) will reap the benefits of a strong lead-in (Person of Interest) and an unsubstantial competitive set.
Friday (and Saturday)
While Friday night functions as broadcast’s Witness Protection Program, CBS’ plucky legal drama Made in Jersey should make short work of its 9 p.m. rivals. After all, as Everist puts it, “If it’s Friday night and you’re watching broadcast TV, you’re probably watching CBS.”
That said, if it’s Saturday night and you’re watching broadcast TV, you’re probably in a rest home.