Mr. TV: Midseason Mayhem

As we inch closer to midseason, let’s hit pause and review the first three months of this TV season.  While more freshmen shows than not have been renewed through the spring, don’t be fooled. There are no new breakouts.

CBS is in the best shape, and right now the only thing it has announced for midseason is upcoming Paula Abdul reality/competition Live to Dance, which opens with an 8-10 p.m. installment on Tuesday, Jan. 4 before keeping the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour occupied until the next season of Survivor begins. What CBS needs to keep an eye on is fading sophomore Undercover Boss on high HUT-level Sunday.  Also of concern is freshman The Defenders, which should have its back-nine episode order slashed, and what to air in place of canceled Medium in the Friday 8 p.m. anchor position. I would position upcoming Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior in place of The Defenders out of the underrated parent series.

Corporate CBS cousin The CW is also consistent, but that is more a reflection of a lack of funding than a successful schedule. Other than lightweight nonscripted entry Shedding for the Wedding, I don’t know of anything new coming up on The CW in midseason.

ABC’s best shot for success is upcoming Shonda Rhimes medical drama Off the Map, which focuses on an idealistic young doctor (Caroline Dhavernas) who transfers to an understaffed medical clinic in a small town in the South American jungle. The advantage of replacing failed The Whole Truth in the Wednesday 10 p.m. hour (effective Jan. 12) is low expectations—a test pattern can pull higher ratings. And chances are Shonda will drench the hour with sexual innuendo and drama, the same formula that made Grey’s Anatomy a hit.

I’m far less bullish on ABC offering a winter edition of Wipeout. Summer favorites Big Brother on CBS and So You Think You Can Dance on Fox bombed outside of their June through September windows. And why did ABC give V (which returns on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 10 p.m.) a second season? Enough already with these revivals. But positioning upcoming Matthew Perry sitcom Mr. Sunshine in place of fading Cougar Town on Feb. 9 is a smart move.

Troubled NBC, which I lauded for being aggressive last fall, is now making changes on every night of the week except, of course, Saturday. While I understand the network’s frustration over once promising The Event, putting it on hiatus until Feb. 28 will only further deteriorate the audience.

The problem with NBC in midseason is too many changes. If I have trouble following the lineup, and I do that for a living, imagine how confused the average TV viewer is going to be.  Look for four new series; new seasons of Parks and Recreation, The Marriage Ref, Who Do You Think You Are? and Celebrity Apprentice; and new time periods for Chase, Parenthood, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Law & Order: SVU, 30 Rock and Outsourced. You need a friggin GPS to find where all these shows are now.

Fox also has plenty of changes ahead and arguably the biggest is retooled American Idol airing on Wednesday and Thursday. The arrivals of new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler will certainly spark interest, at least initially, but neither can replace Simon Cowell. Without him, ratings are likely to take a tumble.

Since American Idol will still probably crack the top 10, relocated leadouts Human Target and Bones (which can stand on its own) will benefit.  Moving fading Fringe to low-HUT level Friday will only make matters worse, however, and lead-in Kitchen Nightmares is only a temporary solution. But Fox is wise to try to ignite interest in new animated comedy Bob’s Burgers out of The Simpsons on Sunday, and new comedy Mixed Signals can certainly do no worse than failed Running Wilde out of Raising Hope on Tuesday.

Once we get past the holidays, get ready for midseason mayhem.