Prime-Time Matchup

A breakdown of shows going head-to-head

MONDAY 9-10

ABC Dancing With the Stars vs. CBS 2 Broke Girls/ Mike & Molly vs. FOX The Mob Doctor vs. NBC The Voice

As much as you never want to drag a knife through the innards of the golden goose, you also don’t want to let the plucky little revenue source sit around and get too fat to lay eggs. Little surprise, then, that NBC chose to return The Voice for a fall cycle. Not only is it the network’s top-performing entertainment property, it’s literally the only viable lead-in for the new drama Revolution.

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, The Voice should dominate this particular part of the night. Heading into its 15th cycle, Dancing With the Stars is on the downhill slide, dropping from a 4.5 rating in the 18-49 demo in 2010-11 to a 3.2 this season. And while 2 Broke Girls is the top-rated freshman comedy, it closed out its first campaign at a series low of 3.3. Moreover, 2BG no longer will enjoy the benefit of the How I Met Your Mother lead-in. Instead, the show will be required to build on the new comedy Partners.

Of course, nobody ever got rich by underestimating CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, so it’s possible that Partners will help maintain 2BG’s big deliveries. (Thematically, the two shows would seem to lock into one another like Lego.)

As it’s the only game in town, Fox could steal share among people looking for drama. Newcomer The Mob Doctor shares DNA with its lead-in, Bones, though that drama is beginning to exhibit signs of osteoporosis. 

TUESDAY 9-9:30

ABC Happy Endings/Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 vs. FOX New Girl/The Mindy Project vs. NBC Go On/The New Normal

A few short years after resignedly tying a toe tag on the sitcom, the networks are channeling Dr. Frankenstein. Last week, buyers heard any number of variants on the “It’s alive!” theme. The genre is so hot, in fact, that 16 of 36 new scripted series are comedies.

In what could prove to be the most time-shifted block on the grid, three of the Big Four nets are airing sitcoms in the 9 p.m. hour, creating what amounts to a snarl of chuckles. Speaking on behalf of the lone drama holdout, CBS programming chief Kelly Kahl last week predicted that the competition was steering into a “comedy SigAlert,” a nod to L.A.’s dreaded severe-traffic advisories.

The goofball antics of Happy Endings and the merrily profane Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 are complementary Tetris tiles, while the New Girl/ Mindy Project pairing off ers further evidence that the era of brilliant female showrunners has only just begun. But while Fox assures a victory among younger viewers (New Girl’s median age: 35), NBC could win on reach. Those who have seen the Go On pilot say it is Matthew Perry’s best comic turn since Friends. Generous sampling is all but assured. 

WEDNESDAY 10-11

ABC Nashville vs. NBC Chicago Fire

Oh, to have seen the look on Denis Leary’s face when he was told that NBC was about to revive the long-dormant firehouse drama. The sandpaper-nerved comic’s searing FX vehicle Rescue Me had been off  the air a little more than eight months when NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt announced that Dick Wolf’s Chicago Fire would introduce the neglected genre to a new generation of viewers.

The first look at Chicago Fire was about what one would expect from the man who brought us the Law & Order franchise: workplace drama, blue-collar grit, grim-faced stoicism in the face of danger. Plus, there’s a guy who takes his shirt off  every chance he gets, no doubt catnip for the considerable number of those who fetishize fi refi ghters.

At first blush, ABC’s Nashville seems like the Music City version of Smash. This sudsy musical pits country crooner Connie Britton (in the Shelby Lynne role) against Auto-Tuned pop tart Hayden Panettiere, who portrays a sort of Knight Rider evil twin version of Taylor Swift. Nashville has a good shot at finding an audience in the post-Grey’s Anatomy time slot, though so much has to go right if the show is to sidestep the inherent pitfalls of the genre.