This is the third in a series of three posts. Read Part 2 if you missed it.
It's not as if CBS is going to go gangbusters from September onward. What few new entries are coming to the schedule are largely question marks: "Vegas" and "Jersey Girl" aren't going to work, and "Partners" will squeak by less on the steam of its own charm than its cushy slot on Monday.
"Elementary" is actually the sleeper of the bunch. Unlike "Vegas," where CBS awkwardly cloaks a procedural inside the trappings of a period piece, this Sherlock Holmes reboot is a pure, unabashed procedural with well-cast leads (Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu). Truth be told, it doesn't even matter that "Elementary" is well done; it's in a Thursday 10 p.m. time slot where NBC and ABC will barely have a heartbeat. Look for "Elementary" to be the most-watched new series of the season, comedy or drama.
But CBS won't truly shine overall until midseason, where the network will have a murderers' row of events all scheduled in a matter of weeks--the AFC championship game, Grammys and Super Bowl--that will pretty much guarantee the Eye wins the 18-49 crown in 2012-13.
But what will truly put the network over the top is the promotional platform these events will provide for new programming for the midseason. A lucky new comedy like "Friend Me" and/or "The Ex Men" is going to get a huge lead-in from "Big Bang Theory," which may very well be ready to hit peak performance, or "Two and a Half Men," which is almost definitely going into its last season. Prediction: "Person of Interest" gets bench time as CBS attempts a new two-hour comedy block on Thursday, taking a strangehold of a night where the most ad dollars await the winning network.
That's not good news for ABC, which has a promising hour scheduled at 8 p.m. in "Last Resort." It's going to need a better time slot if it's really intended to blossom on the schedule. One hour you can already cross off the list of potential relocation slots is Wednesday at 10 p.m., where country-flavored "Nashville" is going to fit like a glove on a night where ABC will be stronger than ever. One exception: new 8:30 p.m. comedy "The Neighbors," which will wash out quick.
Sunday is truly the night where the most suspense is in store for ABC, and not because "666 Park Avenue" is going to scare up any more viewers than "Pan Am" failed to last season. The question mark there is whether "Revenge" will lose or build on the audience "Desperate Housewives" had before clearing out of the Sunday 9 p.m. time slot, or whether it will regret the risky switch from its previous Wednesday 10 p.m. home. Expect "Revenge" to do just well enough to hang on to its "Once Upon A Time" lead-in but "666" will mean Sunday will still provide a hole that will need filling, though ABC has more than a few hours stockpiled to try in the midseason, like another femme-friendly hour, "Red Widow."
That leaves NBC. Wouldn't it be nice if the comeback story could finally unfold. Unfortunately this fall could be just as troubling as the last one. The new comedy block on Wednesday will be obliterated, and "Guys With Kids" will be the season's first cancellation. New dramas "Revolution" and "Chicago Fire" will get blown out in short order. And Friday will prove so inhospitable to returning half-hours "Community" and "Whitney" that they will pray to inherit the "30 Rock" slot once that series finishes out its run beginning in October.
Bleak as it all sounds, there will be some rays of hope. The pairing of "Go On" and "The New Normal" won't exactly be insta-hits but "Normal" in particular will do decently enough that NBC will do anything to ensure survival, like even cutting back "Voice" a half-hour on Monday to give it the best possible lead-in, or maybe even putting it on at 10 p.m. once "Revolution" clocks out. Then there's the midseason, where NBC will start releasing the first of the arsenal it is building that reboot established icons like "Hannibal," which should be followed by "Dracula," "Cleopatra" and "Munsters" redo "Mockingbird Lane." Just you wait: Watch NBC rebuild its brand on the back of revived iconic characters.
And there you have it. One can't possibly predict everything that's going to happen over the course of an entire season, but dammit, someone has to try...