ABC Comedy Part 5: The Even Bigger Collapse

Part 5: The Even Bigger Collapse

Gone were the days of Modern Family consistently seeing ratings above a 5.0 in the main demo. By the latter half of the season, it started to plateau in the low 3s, still enough to make it the #2 comedy on TV. Fellow anchor The Middle did an admirable job of holding in the ratings, usually in the low 2 range. It wasn’t at all Modern Family, The Middle, or Last Man Standing, their three returning comedies on the fall schedule, being the centerpieces of the problems—it was all the other shows and ABC’s missed opportunities in scheduling.

Renewing The Neighbors in the first place was considered iffy by many considering its weak ratings behind The Middle. Being an ABC Studios comedy most likely saved it in an era where all the others were cancelled. However, when ABC announced its new time slot—Friday at 8:30 behind the very incompatible Last Man Standing—it was very clear that indeed it was primarily renewed as a save-face comedy for the studio.

And then there were the mishaps with the new comedies. Priority was given to Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night, which was rejected by CBS due to poor testing. Although premiering well, fans started to agree with CBS, as ratings started to tank, and fast. There was also Back in the Game airing after The Middle, which was oddly cancelled before its order was finished despite it being in the same range as the year-to-year The Neighbors, and the fact that there was no clear-cut hit amongst the freshmen batch.

The Tuesday Comedy Schedule Mishaps

On Tuesday at the 9pm hour, ABC aired two new comedies: The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife. Both had pilot episodes that reviewed mediocrely to outright terrible, but as the two series progressed it became clear that the former was a great companion for The Middle and the latter an even better companion for Modern Family. Trophy Wife was also produced by ABC, and even non-fans saw the mistake ABC made. Both struggled greatly on Tuesdays. When ABC announced that they were receiving a full season and the Wednesday at 8:30 and 9:30 comedies were not, many figured that one or both of them would get a fair chance on Wednesday to prove themselves capable of strong ratings. Instead, ABC opted to air another party comedy, Mixology, after Modern Family, while plugging veteran Suburgatory into the 8:30 pm time slot. How the latter ended up airing all three of its seasons on Wednesday is something I will never understand, especially in years where it was so desperately needed elsewhere. However, even Suburgatory struggled, and was not seeing the ratings it saw in its first or even second seasons. My guess is that shifting it from 8:30 to 9:30 and then back to 8:30 again throughout its run did not help.

As a fan, it was cringeworthy to see Trophy Wife flounder in the high 0s and low 1s when it could have much easily beaten Mixology if aired at the post-Modern Family time slot. The Goldbergs, which arguably took even more time to figure it self out creatively, typically settled in the mid 1s. While not great in any way, The Goldbergs picked the right year to do mediocre in the ratings. As a result of all the other freshmen comedies being cancelled (meaning there would be no returning comedies from ABC Studios), it was moved to Wednesday at 8:30 and given summer promotion like I’ve never seen before. With the channel’s three veterans starting to age at that point, it was clear that nurturing the highest-rated freshmen comedy would have to be at the top of their priority list, ABC-produced or not.

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