Upfront Programming: Show Battles

Mediaweek’s own Programming Insider, Marc Berman, zeroes in on the most interesting prime-time matchups of the coming season (including a three-way battle on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. featuring three shows that offer up cops, lawyers or both). Included at the bottom of each of Berman’s show battles is input from Networked Insights, an independent research outfit that tracks online buzz of television shows. Its SocialSenseTV product, which its executives call an analytical “listening platform” for the TV industry, pulls data from 1.5 billion interactions per month from 300 million people buzzing online. We offer up the percentage of buzz each of the shows gets versus the other, along with a smattering of typical comment from the buzzers.

The Event (NBC) vs. Lonestar (Fox)

Monday Night 9 p.m.

No one ever said launching a new series is easy, particularly if you are facing the most-watched show of the week, the second hour of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and CBS’ perennial top-10 occupant Two and a Half Men. While counter-programming with new dramas makes sense, survival could very well depend on the 8 p.m. lead-in support. That alone could give Fox’s Lonestar the advantage over rival The Event from NBC.  

Airing out of still-potent House, Lonestar is the unusual tale on a con artist (James Wolk) who juggles two lives in two Texas cities with two different women. The Event—out of surprise returnee Chuck—focuses on an “everyman” (Jason Ritter) who exposes the biggest coverup in U.S. history as he investigates the disappearance of his fiance.  While crime show devotees might trial The Event, soft lead-in support from Chuck and the glut of other new crime solvers in prime time won’t help.   

Given the competition (which also includes young female magnet Gossip Girl on The CW), neither new drama is expected to soar. And Fox’s Lonestar could face an uphill battle for trying something unique since viewers often favor the familiar.  

But if Hugh Laurie as grumpy Dr. House remains a fan favorite at 8 p.m. versus the small cult following for Zachary Levi as nebbish Chuck, the better pick of the two hours is Lonestar. Just don’t expect a top 20 (or 30) finish.

[SocialSenseTV says The Event: 63%; Lonestar: 37%. The Event’s exec producer Evan Katz (Fox’s 24) brings cred; fans are expecting big things. As for Lonestar, a focus group probably sparked the name change from the original Midland. But those online feel the first title was a better fit.]

No Ordinary Family (ABC) vs. Glee (Fox)

Tuesday Night 8 p.m.

This past season’s most lauded new entry, musical dramedy Glee, has a new slot on Fox this fall (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.), where it will keep the time period warm until the return of a 90-minute Simon Cowell-less edition of American Idol in January. (Glee shifts to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. out of the live American Idol results show in midseason.)

Leading out of Idol this year, Glee got a major boost, morphing from a marginally rated critical darling to a bona fide top 10 entry. But opposite older-skewing CBS mega-hit NCIS and NBC’s demo-friendly The Biggest Loser—and minus the support of American Idol—expect to see smaller stats for Glee in fourth quarter. 

ABC, which is shifting the live Dancing With the Stars hour to 9 p.m., is hoping to compete with No Ordinary Family, the story of a so-called typical American family (Michael Chiklis stars as the dad) who discover they have extraordinary abilities after their plane crashes in the Amazon jungle. While clips at ABC’s upfront showcased a drama unlike anything else in prime time, the cartoon-like premise for No Ordinary Family could be limited.