Week 36 Sitcom Scorecard -- The 2016-17 Night by Night in Review

Written Burned Out on Sitcoms by Bridger Cunningham

What a Season.  The 2016-17 season saw a welcome expansion of 4 permanent sitcom timeslots, bringing the total up to 27.  The upfront schedules for the 2017-18 season indicate a stable trend with 27 regular places, albeit NBC expanded two spaces and ABC foolishly relinquished two slots.  Take a sigh of relief our broadcast networks still have shelf space to give us laughers in the era of streaming and choice.  The four broadcast networks debuted 14 sitcoms, with 9 given a greenlight to enter a second season.  Conversely, 9 parted, including 2 sophomore comedies and 2 longstanding veterans with 6 (outsourced) seasons of material.

The remainder of week 35 unveiled the finales of its ABC sitcoms to mixed results, while FOX delivered doses of disappointment for its seven remaining entries.  The Simpsons finished the season at 1.77 after a disappointing 0.9 finale delivery, while The Goldbergs finished nearby with a 1.72, having ticked up to a 1.4 with their finale.  The Middle lost its tie for 7th Place due to a soft 1.2 finale, finishing a shade under blackish with a 1.50 (the previous delta of the "Leading the Pack" classification).  The Middle had the last laugh, as blackish loses its plum Modern Family lead-in and is forced to show its true grit on Tuesdays next fall.  American Housewife ended with a 1.45 average in 9th place after a soft 1.2 finale, and a welcome upgrade to Wednesday evenings with a MF lead-in.

Down in the Middle of the Pack. A soft Family Guy finale (two entries at the 1.0 mark) dropped it to 14th place with a 1.29 average.  FG can also relish the idea that its neighbors in sitcom ranks are both cancelled.  Fresh Off The Boat finished the season with a 1.18 in an 18th Place tie with Superior Donuts, having registered a soft 1.0 finale.  Downward Dog made its debut in the delta with a 1.1 rating and will be omitted as it made its debut after April.  Impressively, a Tuesday delivery on 5/23 retained a 1.0 rating, leaving the question if a summer fare may be in order.

The Anemic range featured Bob's Burgers registering a final average of 0.97 in 24th place, and Imaginary Mary ended its longshot season tied for 28th Place with a 0.90 average.  Brooklyn 99 continued its downward descent with a double 0.7 and 0.6, finishing the season at 0.86 below the cancelled Dr. Ken.  Great News remained steady, finishing at 0.75, and Making History ended the season with the lowest season average of 0.67.  Given Great News' edge of the previous Abyss, the figures adjusted down to allow it to finish in its rightful place.  With the final entries registered, let's take a look at how the season played out, night by night:

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FOX delivered the lone entries for sitcoms this season, delivering five permanent timeslots to eight helpings.  Permanent anchors left us with Bob's Burgers at 7:30, The Simpsons at 8pm, Family Guy at 9pm and Last Man On Earth at the less desired 9:30 tailgate timeslot.  Wedged in the 8:30 timeslot were dismal Son of Zorn and Making History.  FOX utilized football to bolster its averages with fleeting results, as well as enhance Tuesday entries The Mick and Brooklyn 99.  The results varied by proximity to the game, with The Simpsons (3.5), The Mick (2.8) and Son of Zorn (2.4) taking the largest fleeting rewards.  The lows, however, belted out fractions with 0.9 for The Simpsons, 0.7 for The Mick and 0.6 for Son of Zorn.  Family Guy (1.7), Brooklyn 99 (1.3) and Last Man On Earth received the mildest gains, yet all received renewals.  The only show never to receive football inflation was Making History, which never attained a coveted 1.0 rating.

What Sizzled -- Very little.  All shows crackled red hot with Football, then delivered ratings on-par with the Anemic Range.  However, the renewed shows did exhibit solid stability which came close to CBS and ABC's Spring Doldrums ratings.

What Fizzled -- FOX did not capitalize on its inflation to bolster its roster, with all retreating to their usual 0.6-1.2 deliveries.  Inconsistent scheduling hindered the roster, leaving veterans weak and freshman sitcoms with much to be desired.  FOX also failed to capitalize on its sixth timeslot, which may have been ideal for Bob's Burgers as it has a smaller established audience.  The 7:30 timeslot may have suited Last Man On Earth, opening up the 9:30 timeslot for new entries or weaker fares.  Making History may have held stronger potential had it entered the season earlier with football.

What is to Come -- FOX seems to desire little change this evening, with only Ghosted making a 8:30 entry between Simpsons and Family Guy.  The jury is still out, yet it appears Ghosted may see a majority of its run in the Anemic range.

Bridger's Take -- A similar Sunday is a similar problem.  Fall numbers make fireworks, whilst Spring fails to ignite a spark.

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CBS cornered the market on this evening with the return of Monday comedies as the other three networks have little desire to place sitcoms on this evening.  The Voice and Bachelor/DWTS still reign on NBC and ABC, and FOX has modest dramas.  After dismantling comedies on Monday in the 2015-16 season, CBS went all in and returned to a familiar approach which housed seven comedies over four slots.  Juggernaut The Big Bang Theory resided in this block for five weeks, aiding a strong launch to Kevin Can Wait. In a week by week progression, veterans 2 Broke Girls, The Odd Couple and freshman Man With a Plan made debuts between 10/10 and 10/24.  The results were mixed, with Kevin Can Wait retaining a sizable portion of its lead-in, then leading the night with modest success.  Man With a Plan never managed outshine its lead-in, yet followed the rhythm of the night.  2 Broke Girls created a firestorm 2-episode debut, then received mixed results in the weeks following.  And Odd Couple siphoned off viewers at 9:30.

After TOC crashed and burned, CBS utilized mid-season entry Superior Donuts at 9pm, shoving 2BG to its 10th and final death timeslot.  The Spring roster delivered weak numbers hovering between 1.0-1.2, sinking lower when The Great Indoors was burned off in 2 Broke Girls' last workspace.

What Sizzled -- 2016, duh.  As usual, The Big Bang burned bright in early fall.  Kevin Can Wait cemented its following and is the network's strongest freshman comedy.  2 Broke Girls also enjoyed a successful 2016 in a familiar timeslot.

What Fizzled -- 2017.  'Nuff said.  CBS Mondays exhibited the first signs of Spring Mudslides as all shows sank lower into the lower 1.0 range.  The Odd Couple attained the first cancellation status, and 2 Broke Girls hemorrhaged viewers due to moves and inconsistent scheduling.  MWAP followed the rhythm for better or worse, as did SD.  And The Great Indoors bared their fractional value, ending on a whimper.  It appears the glory of the 1986-2014 CBS sitcom dominance has faded.

What is to Come -- Another forgettable year with the exhausted formula in play. Early fall entails TBBT launches freshman 9JKL at 8:30, KCW takes the 9pm anchor to lead into Me, Myself and I.  Mid-fall sees KCW return to its normal timeslot, with Me Myself and I upgrading to 9pm and Superior Donuts debuting in the block's weakest 9:30 timeslot.  Absent is follower MAWP.

Bridger's Take -- Like Sundays, Monday will repeat history with a strong(er) 2017, followed by a tenuous 2018.  MWAP being absent demonstrates an alarming problem, as CBS often benches its comedies 4 seasons in, not in its 2nd season.  Unless SD or one of the pilots sinks, this could present a problem as it will be mid-season putty.  CBS appears to be banking on its pilots' successes and using MWAP as a backup.  SD is weak, yet may fit at 9:30 as a quiet producer.

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The 2016-17 made this evening competitive television, period.  ABC and FOX delivered six permanent sitcom homes to eight entries, while NBC offered timeshare viewing in its 9pm timeslot to three sitcoms it renewed.  ABC took the boldest risk and enhanced its lineup with two sitcom entries, sliding its weak fares from 8 to 9pm.  The greatest wildcard offered was ABC moving The Middle to 8pm with moderately successful results.  American Housewife earned its staying value early, often besting the Middle at 8:30 in 2016.  Fresh Off The Boat played steady with its ratings, and sophomore The Real O'Neals and freshman Imaginary Mary tanked at 9:30.

FOX returned to a similar formula of New Girl and Brooklyn 99, going fractional early in the fall.  Mid-season crass-com The Mick bridged their absences, and the three sitcoms shared two timeslots.  NBC used The Voice to not only launch drama This Is Us, but also sitcoms The Good Place, Trial and Error and Great News with mixed results.  All were renewed.

What Sizzled -- ABC.  Tuesdays were previously the network's weakest evening, and it appears to have repaired half of its broken evening.  The Middle and American Housewife delivered steady to above average ratings, while FOTB not only weathered overshadowing from This is Us, but also Spring Doldrums.  FOX mildly bolstered its roster with provocative The Mick and appears interested in using it to rebuild this weak evening.

What Fizzled -- Anything at 9:30.  Both ABC showings tanked, as did NBC's timeshare sitcoms in the second showing.  FOX lost its thunder on this evening ages ago, with fractions now passable fare.

What is to Come -- Competitive real estate, lead by ABC choosing to shake up their roster.  FOTB moves again to 8:30, Wednesday transplant blackish takes on 9pm, and freshman pilot The Mayor takes the cursed 9:30 space.  FOX again appears to be sharing its two timeslots to the same three tenants.  NBC relocated its crowned piece to Thursdays to take on ABC's TGIT, establishing permanent anchors for Thursday fares Superstore and The Good Place.  The 8-10pm hours will be dominated by ABC, and Superstore may receive a little lead-in-TLC from The Voice.

Bridger's Take -- ABC hasn't learned their lesson that 9:30 entries are cursed.  FOTB will not burn as bright as other sitcoms and is ideal filler for this space.  It should have been placed at 9:30, unless ABC is optimistic about enhancing it in the event The Middle vacates the schedule in 2019.  blackish's 9pm move was precise and may lead the network to ruling the timeslot.  The Mayor needs a prayer to avoid impeachment, while The Good Place may finally grow in its new home.

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ABC ferociously claimed a territorial victorious evening with all of its sitcoms placing among the top 7 sitcoms airing in 2016-17 among the 34 entries.  It moved established Goldbergs into the 8pm slot, and Speechless thrived in its plum setting.  Having cemented the same schedule for two seasons, ABC mildly shook things up in the 8pm hour to expand its brand.  Empire faded into dissension, while ABC endured the nastiness of spring ratings with moderately successful results.  Modern Family eroded into ordinary territory, yet it received a 2-season pickup along with The Goldberg's.

What Sizzled -- Fall ratings.  All shows burned bright, with only blackish taking a weak 1.2 rating. Little more needs to be said as the numbers tell us what burned hot this season -- The entire Lineup!

What Fizzled -- The creative pacing in 2017.  MF grew tired, while The Goldbergs strayed too far into disbelief.  Speechless became another run of the mill crazy family sitcom, and blackish took to many topical bold risks.  All minor repairs which can be cleaned up.

What is to Come -- A mild shakeup, as blackish moves to Tuesdays and American Housewife receives a little TLC as The Goldberg's received in 2014.

Bridger's Take -- ABC wisely moved blackish, as it has three years of critical acclaim and enough visibility to anchor Tuesdays at 9pm.  American Housewife took Tuesdays by storm, narrowly edging The Middle in most 2016 entries.  The show has great potential for growth, and appears to be MF's predecessor should it exit in 2019.  ABC appears to have FOTB and blackish to anchor the prime hours on Tuesday, and The Goldbergs and American in the prime hours on Wednesday should MF and The Middle exit in 2019.  This strategy may ensure the comedy blocks survive beyond that timeline.

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CBS again opened its doors to 4 permanent sitcom spaces, while NBC reopened two spaces.  The results?  CBS aired a consistent lineup minus a guest showing of Superior Donuts, while NBC split three sitcoms in the two spaces with softer results.  The Big Bang Theory eroded as expected, yet rules the roost.  The Great Indoors squandered its plum timeslot to dismal results, sinking the remaining lineup.  In spite of this shortcoming, Mom showed its strangulation power and eventually would outshine its lead-in.  Life in Pieces struggled in the 9:30 timeslot, yet delivered a sturdy performance similar to ABC's FOTB.  Over at NBC, fall was silent for critically heralded Superstore and The Good Place.  Both received early mid-season renewals, and Powerless made a low-voltage run in The Good Place's exit.

What Sizzled -- The Big Bang, of course.  Mom also provided stability, and critical acclaim traipsed the majority of the lineup.  NBC also deserves praise as it is making mild attempts to relive the glory of Must-See TV.

What Fizzled -- The Great Indoors dumped its rating into the network outhouse.  So sad Big-Bang-Lite, aka a common rerun, outperformed it by significant figures.  NBC gave its sitcoms minimal promotion.  Powerless drained NBC's grid, and suspiciously damaged Superstore further than common doldrums were capable of doing.

What is to Come -- A minor cleanup of atrocity TGI paves the way for a welcome Little Sheldon.  Beyond that, NBC made an about-face decision to move its powerhouse This is Us against Mom and Life in Pieces.  Will and Grace returns to its former home at 8pm, while under-performing Great News receives TLC wedged between two critical darlings.

Bridger's Take -- CBS is playing their cards correctly.  Not only "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It", but also forecasting Little Sheldon becoming its parent's predecessor in 2019.  Mom and LIP could endure damage against This is Us, yet few humorous undertones exist in the superior-rated, leaving alternative viewers to enjoy their laughs.  NBC is making bold strides at 8pm, yet will spend another season 3rd in their timeslot.  Will and Grace makes sense, and hopefully Great News will establish in its plum timeslot.

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The remains of the schedule presented the usual soft demos.  ABC scrapped the only showings here, with Last Man Standing delivering a stronger year than the previous year, while Dr. Ken had the opposite effect.

What Sizzled -- Last Man Standing, of course.

What Fizzled -- Dr. Ken, of course.

What is to Come -- Nothing sitcom related.  ABC axed both showings, ending a stable fare.

Bridger's Take -- In an era which only sitcoms and select reality TV fares rule the roost on their weakened network, ABC made the foolish choice of turning this night into a dumping ground.  Isn't that its definition of Sundays or 10pm any other evening?  All but one freshman drama tanked.  Fridays were mildly stable, yet ABC undid its stable tapestry.  ABC should have cooled it on another drama and perhaps relocated Speechless to plug LMS's hole, or taken a risk on another sitcom paired with Dr. Ken.  Once Upon a Time may have worked at 9pm, or buried into the Sunday schedule.  10pm dramas are a hard sell in recent years, and Marvel and appeal to younger male viewers who enjoyed Sundays.

During the Summer hiatus, I welcome you to join us and look back at retrospective seasonns' ratings.

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