Today marks the beginning of the 12-day Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in trendy Pasadena, California at the prestigious Langham Huntington Hotel. Similar to the annual summer gathering, the networks — broadcast, cable, PBS and digital — address approximately 200 TV critics and bloggers from across the country in search of the scoop on the new and returning programs. First up is three days of various cable networks, followed by Fox, FX, CBS, The CW, Showtime, ABC, NBC and three days of PBS.
Unlike the more optimistic summer when the emphasis is on the pending new product, the Winter Tour Press Tour has a more realistic tone because we know which networks (and which shows) are hot, and which are not, almost four months into the current TV season. As a benchmark, we have compiled the season to-date rating results by network (with change versus the comparable year-ago period in parentheses) through January 5, 2014 as follows:
CBS: 11.19 million (- 1), NBC: 9.69 (+11), ABC: 7.95 (- 1), Fox: 6.95 (+ 4), CW: 1.94 (+ 4)
NBC: 3.1 rating/9 share (no change), CBS: 2.5/ 7 (- 7), Fox: 2.3/ 7 (- 4), ABC: 2.2/ 7 (- 4), CW: 0.8/ 2 (+14)
NBC: 3.7/10 (+ 3), CBS: 3.4/ 9 (- 6), Fox: 2.7/ 7 (no change), ABC: 2.7/ 7 (- 4), CW: 0.8/ 2 (no change)
NBC: 2.4/ 8 (- 4), Fox: 2.1/ 7 (- 5), ABC: 1.7/ 6 (no change), CBS: 1.6/ 6 (- 8), CW: 0.7/ 3 (no change)
Fortunately for CBS, the network is in no danger of losing its total viewer dominance anytime soon. But all is not a bed of roses at the Eye net as a result of a deteriorating Monday sitcom slate (“How I Met Your Mother” is signing off on March 31), the failure of “Hostages,” fewer viewers on Thursday care of the expanded two-hour sitcom block, and a Sunday line-up in need of a jolt. CBS had more holes on its current line-up in need of fixing than in recent years.
NBC is worthy of bona fide crowing rights care of the biggest new hot this season, “The Blacklist.” And “The Voice” and “Sunday Night Football” kept its feathers intact in fourth quarter (while “The Biggest Loser” and relocated “Chicago Fire” have resonated on Tuesday). But let’s face it…NBC minus football in first quarter and beyond will take a hit and NBC’s failure to find a hit sitcom (“Sean Saves the World,” “The Michael J. Fox Show” and canceled “Welcome to the Family” are colossal failures) is a huge stumbling block. Even more disappointing, perhaps, is the loss of momentum for “Parenthood” on Thursday, and “Dracula” has no bite on Friday.
ABC, like all the competing networks, is on par from one year earlier thanks to returning occupants like “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Middle,” “Modern Family” and “Shark Tank.” But “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on Tuesday is not the huge hit many were expecting. None of the four new comedies is a hit (modest “The Goldbergs” is most likely to return). “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge” are slipping on Sunday. And nothing new in the drama department has generated any interest. Note to ABC: Never cancel a series like “Body of Proof” that delivers over 10-million viewers just because the audience skew is older. NBC was also guilty of that when it prematurely canceled “Harry Law.”
Fox, no doubt, is hoping the show that saves it every year, “American Idol,” will stop bleeding. But even the return of Jennifer Lopez and the arrival of Harry Connick, Jr. (paired with returning Keith Urban) are likely to reverse the negative trend. Drama “Sleepy Hollow,” of course, is a bona fide success. And “Bones” keeps on ticking no matter where the network places it. But the live action Tuesday comedies are lacking (despite the critical raves for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”). “Glee” should be graduating this spring. Relocated “Raising Hope” is not delivering. And sagging “The X Factor” just needs to officially end.
Last, of course, is the CW, which is trying to build on the ongoing young adult appeal of dramas “Arrow,” “The Vampire Dairies” and veteran “Supernatural,” which could be a long shot for renewal due to its age. Freshman “The Originals” is a shoo-in for a second season renewal, and the return of the “Whose Line is it Anyway?” revival, a surprise success last summer, could potentially jumpstart deadly Friday. But the jury is still out on “The Tomorrow People” and “Reign.” Sophomore returnees “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Carrie Diaries” have not earned their renewal stripes. And three-year old “Hart of Dixie” is just plain sluggish. In other words, there is more work to do, and plenty of it, at each of the five broadcast networks.
As we keep you posted live from the Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, we will do so with this competitive scenario on the forefront. And we will stick to the reality, and not the spin.