Welcome to the 21st edition of the Harmelin Media Report’s new TV season review. For the 2015-16 season which just ended in the spring, the networks renewed more shows than the prior year — eighteen new shows were renewed compared to fourteen in the 2014-15 season. This coming season, the networks will premiere 20 new shows in the fall (13 dramas and 7 comedies). Additionally, there are more than 23 shows premiering in mid-season.
It is getting more difficult for networks to determine the metrics for successful shows due to the increased nature of time shifted viewing. Many shows that don’t have strong ratings initially have improved ratings from delayed viewing. Additionally, many networks have shows that are produced by their own studios. This will help them to monetize the show if it makes it to syndication or the networks can sell the rights abroad. These factors contributed to more shows returning than in previous years.
Familiarity and name recognition are very important to viewers; this is why there are so many remakes and reboots this year. NBC’s Taken; FOX’s Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist, 24:Legacy and Prison Break; CBS’s Macgyver and Training Day and CW’s Frequency and Riverdale, based on the Archie comics. This tactic proved very successful last year for Fox’s The X-Files but not for their Minority Report or NBC’s Heroes Reborn, CBS’s Limitless and ABC’s The Muppets, all of which did not return. ABC’s Uncle Buck is running as a summer series moved from the regular season schedule. CBS considered a Nancy Drew reboot, but that didn’t make the schedule.
Another category that has become very successful for the networks are live production musical remakes. Last year FOX entered this category with their version of Grease. NBC has done this for three straight years with The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and The Wiz. This year’s live productions include FOX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show (Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert, Tim Curry), ABC’s Dirty Dancing (Abigail Breslin, Debra Messing) and NBC’s Hairspray (Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson) and a live Aaron Sorkin drama A Few Good Men.
However, strong name recognition doesn’t mean that the show will be a success. The following shows were all not renewed despite their star power: Neil Patrick Harris’ Best Time Ever, Eva Longoria’s Telenovela, John Stamos’ Grandfathered, Rob Lowe’s The Grinder and Joan Allen’s The Family. Jennifer Lopez’ Shades of Blue will return to NBC later this season. This year’s big names include Kiefer Sutherland in ABC’s Designated Survivor and Minnie Driver’s Speechless, Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc on CBS comedies Kevin Can Wait and Man With a Plan. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell star in NBC’s sitcom The Good Place; Damon Wayans in FOX’s Lethal Weapon and Queen Latifah in Star, another music drama from Empire’s creator Lee Daniels.
Time travel was another big theme throughout this year’s crop of shows. Timeless on NBC, CW’s Frequency and mid-season entries including ABC’s H.G. Wells’ Time After Time and the FOX comedy Making History.
Will the remakes, reboots and rewinds this season give the networks their next big hits? We hope you enjoy this issue with our previews of the upcoming television season.