The War for Winter Time Slots Is Creating Some Truly Odd TV Matchups

Broadcast networks are pitting their bench players against each other after a particularly poor showing in the fall. Some matchups are anyone's guess, and some are just plain weird. Interestingly, there's more new content than usual on the air this winter, quite a bit of it from ABC. With the distraction of the Super Bowl soon to be over, these shows have to perform well, and quickly: May, and cancellation, isn't far away.

1

Agents of SHIELD (ABC) vs. iZombie (The CW), Tuesday 9 p.m.


Two offbeat comic book characters square off—who will take home the gold? Yes, you're right, it's iZombie. S.H.I.E.L.D. still has some catching up to do with audiences put off by that show's rough first season, even after a serious attempt to breathe life back into the franchise with Agent Carter (which pulls a 1.8, despite being really good), and The CW is on a serious hot streak. That's our prediction, anyway. March 17, we'll see—that's the first night of the throwdown (SHIELD is back March 3).

2

American Crime (ABC) vs. Allegiance (NBC), Thursday 10 p.m.

All good things must come to an end, and the first season of How to Get Away With Murder must actually end so soon that another show will slot in ahead of it: American Crime, from 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley. But if you want tense drama, you're spoilt for choice: NBC is premiering Allegiance a month earlier in the same slot, so it'll have time to gain traction. Oddly, both look an awful lot like FX shows, American Crime Story and The Americans, respectively.

3

Empire (Fox) vs. ABC’s Beloved Sitcoms, Wednesday 9 p.m.

Black-ish (a 2.5 in the demo) and Modern Family (a 3.4) are both doing well, but Empire is a smash right out of the gate with an incredible 4 rating.

4

Backstrom (Fox) vs. The Blacklist (NBC), Thursday 9 p.m.

Which charismatic antihero will win? Probably the one who is not a hateful misanthrope. Backstrom tries to make a racist, sexist pig into a likable almost-villain, but we suspect audiences would rather stick with The Blacklist terrorist Red Reddington, whose 2.7 rating makes him the biggest draw at NBC. Backstrom premiered to a 2.0 last week. Both of these guys are going up against Scandal, which is a tough one to counterprogram, as we observed in the fall.

5

The Slap (NBC) vs. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Thursday 8 p.m.

Grey's is a show with a huge following of fans-for-life, but NBC has a heavy hitter in The Slap, a new drama from Lisa Cholodenko, director of The Kids Are All Right. NBC has been patient with its in-house series, but Grey's is pulling a 2.5 average in its 11th season. That's a high bar.