How NFL Flex Scheduling Could Boost Fox’s Almost Human

Many variables in play for premiere shift

After months of promoting the Nov. 4 launch of its robocop series Almost Human, Fox has decided to call an audible, announcing that it will now roll out the show as a two-night event on Sunday, Nov. 17, and Monday, Nov. 18. 

The late strategic switcheroo was devised to make the most of Fox’s Nov. 17 NFL doubleheader, which should provide a powerhouse lead-in for the J.J. Abrams drama. The scheduled games are particularly promising; among the early games are an NFC East grudge match (Washington at Philadelphia), while the late national game pits the 49ers against the Saints. (New Orleans currently sits atop the NFC South with a 5-1 record, while the Niners are hanging tough in the West at 5-2.)

Here’s where the Sunday schedule gets interesting. As much as Almost Human will almost certainly have a lead-in audience in excess of 26 million viewers—Fox’s national late game is the most-watched, highest-rated program on the tube—it also will be competing with NBC’s late Football Night in America segments and a good half-hour of Sunday Night Football.

At first blush, going head-to-head with the prime-time NFL game would appear to be an unfortunate development for Fox. As it turns out, however, the scheduled Nov. 17 SNF game is a wholly unpalatable Green Bay-New York Giants pairing. While the 4-2 Packers are presently in control of the NFC North, the Giants are a miserable 1-6.

Here’s another twist in the narrative: The Packers-Giants ordeal also happens to fall on Week 11—the very first date on the calendar in which the flex schedule applies. In other words, NBC would be well within its rights to punt the matchup in favor of a more appealing game. Barring a miraculous return to competence in East Rutherford, NBC will almost certainly look to swap the dud matchup for a bigger draw.

This does not give NBC carte blanche to simply cherry-pick the best afternoon game from CBS or Fox. Per NFL rules, both CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game in five of the six flex weeks. In this particular scenario, CBS probably will lock in its late game (an AFC West barn-burner between the currently undefeated Chiefs and Peyton Manning’s Broncos), while Fox will hang onto that Niners-Saints broadcast.

Should all of this come to pass, then NBC will have the choice of some middling regional matchups and a few games that would appear to carry no playoff implications whatsoever. The best alternative to the scheduled matchup could be that early Washington-Philly game. (The NFC East may be surprisingly lousy this season—Philly is 0-3 at home! The Giants can’t win on the road!—but the standings are tight. One of these awful teams has to represent the division in the playoffs, and Dallas’ long-term prospects are always one Tony Romo pick-six away from total self-immolation.)

Given all those variables, Almost Human will have the wind at its back. And should Fox’s late game bleed out into prime time, the sci-fi strip won’t be up against anywhere near as much heat as one might normally expect.

Oh, and if the stars align, Almost Human probably won’t run up against The Walking Dead, either. Scripted series don’t fare very well when they share a time slot with AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama.

Episode 2 of Almost Human will air the following night at 8 p.m., where it will lead into Fox’s fall hit, Sleepy Hollow. Current occupant Bones will slide over to its new Friday 8 p.m. outpost on Nov. 15.

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