1997-98 Sitcom Scorecard -- NBC Rules Again, CBS Sitcoms Fall Below FOX's Few Entries

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Written Pitying CBS in the 90's by Bridger Cunningham

NOTE: Data for 1997-98 is scarce, with 4 shows of the 175 entries missing.

NBC of course led the year, in spite of its sitcom varieties so weak they dropped below ABC's offerings.  The dynamics of the 90's presented a continual power struggle for 1st place, with ABC claiming 5 years (1990-91, 1992-95, 1999-2000), NBC taking 4 (1995-99) and CBS claiming a lone victory in 1992-93.  CBS' fortunes were bleaker in the 1990's claiming most of the years in 3rd Place (1990-91, 1994-98, 1999-2000).  1997-98 presented slimmer renewal percentages, with FOX only renewing 25% of their shows (translating to only King of the Hill and The Simpsons.

Cancellation ran rampant in 1998, with the largest casualty being NBC's Seinfeld (9 Seasons).  It went out with a bang, taking 1st Place and leaving ratings to its surrounding shows to exhaust like unyielding grandchildren spending their grandparents' inheritance.  CBS parted with Murphy Brown (the very show which catapulted it into 1st place in 1992) after 10 seasons with unceremonious ratings.  ABC's Grace Under Fire went up in flames after 5 seasons due to lead Brett Butler's personal troubles disrupting production.  One year after the poignant coming out episode, viewers turned their back on Ellen and it ended after 5 seasons.  FOX parted with Living Single after 5 struggling seasons.  And one year after ABC discarded Step by Step and Family Matters, CBS made an unwise choice to resurrect the shows and go after TGIF's ailing franchise with all shows getting axed.

The only good thing that CBS's kid-friendly block was it dislocated anemic Everybody Loves Raymond to Mondays, allowing the struggling show to thrive and the Monday Comedy block to survive post-Murphy Brown.  Trending also in 1997-98 was networks forcing shows who rode on hits' coattails to leave the nest.  NBC farmed out several former Thursday sitcoms onto Monday evening.  Caroline in the City, Fired Up, Suddenly Susan and The Naked Truth all deflated after moving away from Seinfeld, and only Caroline in the City and Suddenly Susan survived.  Even freshman Union Square failed to capitalize on Seinfeld going out with a bang and was shown the door inside of 1997.

Elsewhere, TGIF eroded further with none of the freshman sitcoms being offered renewals.  FOX struggled to deliver laughs on their schedule, yet their fragmented entries managed to outrate CBS' sitcom season average.  UPN still outshined WB on sitcom averages, yet WB pushed past in the overall season average as it amassed an impressive slew of dramas in 1998, finally establishing its identity and showing signs of growth for the first time in 4 seasons.


1. http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Final-Ratings-for-97-98-TV-Season-3006101.php
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997%E2%80%9398_United_States_network_television_schedule

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