Once upon a time, in a TV landscape far, far away, network series premiering to 3 or 4 million viewers would have been quickly buried in the cancellation graveyard.
Now? That’s considered a successful launch.
Welcome to the Brave New World of television, where digital streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu et al.) have hijacked viewers to such an extent that both broadcast and cable networks have changed their standard ratings yardsticks to “delayed viewership”: measuring a show’s audience not by its same-day viewership (known as Live+Same Day), but by viewing on DVR and other platforms over three days (Live+3) and seven days (Live+7). There’s even a Live+30 number.
It’s gotten that desperate.
What this has done is radically altered “The Big Four’s” ratings game, with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC now using Live+3 and Live+7 to inflate viewership. It’s a trend that’s been particularly noticeable this fall, which has been devoid of a breakout hit a la “This Is Us” in 2016, giving network shows much more slack — and, in some cases renewals — despite low viewership. There’s always the exception, of course: the sitcom “Sunnyside,” which had such atrociously low viewership that it was yanked by NBC after four episodes and banished to cyberspace. Ouch.
Now that it’s Nov. 1, I’ve graded each network on their new fall offerings — keeping in mind the “new normal” of delayed viewership giving some shows extended lives.
Has given “Mixed-ish” a full season order and renewed “Stumptown” (starring Cobie Smulders) for Season 2. The sci-fi thriller “Emergence,” starring “Fargo” fan favorite Allison Tolman, has shown enough life to remain in contention for a full-season renewal, though its longterm prospects are iffy. Ditto for “Kids Say the Darndest Things ,” a reboot of the classic series hosted by Tiffany Haddish.
Has renewed all of its freshman offerings — “Bob Hearts Abishola ,” “All Rise ,” “The Unicorn,” “Carol’s Second Act” and “Evil” — for the full season, and even sold the “Evil” franchise overseas (always a moneymaking plus). The numbers for “Bob Hearts Abishola” have been disappointing, but it’s getting some slack considering it’s from “ The Big Bang Theory ”/ “ Mom ”/ “ Young Sheldon ” maestro Chuck Lorre.
Has given its “Silence of the Lambs”-type thriller “Prodigal Son” (Michael Sheen, Tom Payne) a full season order and rewarded animated family series “Bless the Harts ” with an early Season 2 order (animated shows take more time to produce). The little-watched “Almost Family ” (Brittany Snow, Emily Osment, Megalyn Echikunwoke) and “Friday Night Smackdown” are non-starters.
All three of its new fall shows have struggled mightily (see the aforementioned “Sunnyside”). No one’s watching Bradley Whitford in “Perfect Harmony” and the Jimmy Smits legal drama “Bluff City Law” will burn off the rest of its 10 episodes without a back order — never a good sign.