With the Big Four broadcasters done with their upfront presentations this week, each can now take a hard look at where they've placed their bets across the time periods to see how they match up. These schedules aren't set in stone, so there's plenty of time before September rolls around to make some changes that could very well end up saving a show or three.
Looking across primetime, each of the four could make at least one move to protect their assets before it's too late.
ABC: Perhaps the most unusual scheduling coincidence of 2012-13 was the three sets of comedies between ABC, Fox and NBC that found themselves fighting each other Tuesday 9-10 p.m. That's one too many, especially because all six series are really cut from the same cloth, steeped in saucy humor. While NBC might seem to be the first to blink here because of the state of its schedule, "Go On" and "The New Normal" may be in better position than ABC to go up against Fox's "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" because having "The Voice" results show lead-in could give NBC a boost in this competitive hour. The same might be true for ABC's pairing of "Happy Endings" (pictured above) and "The B in Apartment in 23" after the "Dancing With the Stars" results show, but here's an idea that could help the Alphabet. Given programming chief Paul Lee's stated intent on positioning these comedies as the most irreverent on TV, why not push them to 10 p.m.? ABC has tried this before with different comedies and failed, but this time the late time period could help convey just how risque these shows are, plus they'd have no comedy competition. Then move "Dancing" back to 9 p.m. to give those shows that lead-in and move "Private Practice" from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. The drama only has 13 episodes left, so why not just let that hour absorb the body blow of facing both "The Voice" and "NCIS"?
NBC: With an astonishing four comedy blocks in place in the fall, it's a good bet that the Peacock will beat a hasty retreat on at least one of them. And yet it may be the most solid of the four that could use a change: Thursday, NBC's longtime four-comedy stronghold. With CBS keeping comedy out of 9-10 p.m., at least for now, and neither "Person of Interest" nor "Grey's Anatomy" at peak performance," 9:30 p.m. should be a more hospitable place for the network to put one of its new half-hours after "The Office," one of the few scripted launch pads NBC still has. Better that than "Parks & Recreation," which might be better off waiting until after "30 Rock" has run through its final 13 episodes to take over the 8 p.m. time period. It's not like 9:30 p.m. has much pressure on it anyway given having "Rock Center with Brian Williams" at 10 p.m. doesn't require a strong lead-in; NBC is basically taking a pass on that hour if that's where a newsmagazine is being scheduled. So NBC should find a new single-camera comedy with tonal similarities to "Office" and give it a fighting chance at 9:30 p.m.
CBS: With its period setting and character-driven intrigue, the new drama "Vegas" might seem well-positioned on Tuesday at 10 p.m. given soft competition from NBC's "Parenthood" and ABC's "Private Practice," not to mention a good counterprogramming play given it is a male-skewing series facing off against female-skewing competition. But the problem here is one of audience flow--CBS has two of its most formulaic procedurals, "NCIS" and "NCIS:LA," stacked from 8-10 p.m. The viewers of these shows don't seem the type to hang around for something with the kind of style and nuance "Vegas" will offer. A better fit for Tuesday at 10 p.m. is "The Mentalist," which was shipped off Thursday to Sunday at 10 p.m. after "The Good Wife," another series that stands out amid CBS's sea of procedurals for its more substantive, character-driven heft. So wouldn't "Wife," even if female-skewing, be a more compatible match for "Vegas" than "Mentalist"?
FOX: Monday was brutal for Fox last season, and this season isn't going to get any easier. And yet a promising new drama at 9 p.m., "Mob Doctor," is expected to face off against CBS' hit comedies, "Dancing" and "Voice?" That's ridiculous. Fox needs to play pure defense on this night, and "Bones" at 8 p.m. is the right idea. But extend that strategy to 9 p.m. by switching "Mob" with "Fringe," which has 13 episodes left and a fervid cult following that would watch the show even if it was on at 4 a.m. Planting "Mob" on Friday would give it a fighting chance on a less competitive night. It could also help neutralize a CBS launch in the same time slot featuring another female-skewing drama, "Made in Jersey."