Broadcasters Hope Midseason Replacements Will Keep Them Afloat

Most freshman series have flopped

As November sweeps begin to recede in the rearview mirror, the Big Four networks are eager to put some distance between themselves and the first two months of the 2013-14 TV season.

While it hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster—ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox can each lay claim to at least one new hit—the vast majority of freshman series have proven to be flops.

That said, the embrace of limited series (industry argot for the 13-episode arcs popularized by the cable networks) and an “always on” programming strategy has broadcasters prepared for the worst.

So, while a half-dozen new series this season have already been canceled—and another four may as well be—there are plenty of midseason entries ready to plug the gaps.

Fourth-place ABC has no fewer than five series lined up for midseason. Buyers are particularly taken with the atmospheric and unsettling serialized drama Resurrection, which joins ABC’s Sunday night lineup March 9. The talk of the upfront, this meditative mystery is also the night’s priciest new series, commanding as much as $142,000 per 30-second spot.

Also on deck: Killer Women (Jan. 7), a Tarantino Lite procedural that will square off against NBC’s Chicago Fire and CBS’ Person of Interest at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, and Mixology, a comedy from the writers of The Hangover that will replace Super Fun Night in the plum post-Modern Family slot.

NBC boasts three of the top five shows on network TV, and while that enviable cluster of hits has kept the Peacock in first place, it may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. “While things certainly look better at the top of the leaderboard, the bottom is literally dropping out,” said Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research.

Thursday night remains an unholy mess—all told, only four NBC series are averaging a 2.0 or better. (CBS has 15.) That said, buyers have warmed to the upcoming comedy About a Boy, which was originally developed for Fox a decade ago. And Chicago PD (Jan. 8) also appears to be a sound investment.

The World Series has helped second-place Fox grow its C3 rating 17 percent to a 2.5, and the Super Bowl will cover a lot of blemishes. But benching Dads and The Mindy Project and shifting Glee to the 8 p.m. slot suggests the network is unsure about how to proceed with its hobbled Tuesday night comedy block. If this is the case, it’s hard to say where the freshman sitcom Surviving Jack will land…and after Fox shut down production on Us & Them, there’s no guarantee the Alexis Bledel vehicle will ever see the light of day.

Meanwhile, Fox’s drama prospects continue to shine, with Rake set to debut after American Idol on Thursday, Jan. 23.

Lastly, with but a single hole to patch, CBS will slot Intelligence (Jan. 13) in the Monday 10 p.m. space vacated by Hostages.