Is ABC Poised for a Rebound in 2018?

Written Wondering if a Lack of Creativity is the Key by Bridger Cunningham

It's been a rough two years for the alphabet network.  Coming up on its 70th anniversary in 2018, ABC has been saddled in 4th Place since early 2016 after FOX pushed past.  The 2016-17 season produced nary a successful drama, and its heralded sitcom block aged this and endured some erosion which took a toll on its newfound hits, American Housewife and Speechless.  Its Friday and Sunday rosters are in fractional shambles.  And to add insult to injured scheduling, durable favorites such as The Middle and Scandal bow out this Spring.  But there is promise on the horizon.

ABC seems to be following the trend of another fail first, soar second season, much like the 1987-88 season which the network continued to struggle in 3rd place until the winter and spring delivered hits.  As its Tuesday 8:00 sitcoms flourished that season with Who's The Boss and Growing Pains in a strong 5th/6th Place combo, ABC broke the two apart and moved Growing Pains to settle Wednesdays, opening the space up for 10th Place Wonder Years to make a successful debut.  ABC sampled other shows in the 8:30 timeslot, populating enough renewals to help the network tackle other problematic evenings such as Fridays.  The moves and risks ABC took, including shuffling its Friday block, helped the network shove its way past an ailing CBS into 2nd place.  Interestingly, CBS appears to be in the same ailing position this season, standing with one foot in the grave of aging shows and another on a banana peel of failed sitcoms such as Me, Myself & Ilene Cancellation and 9JKLet'sChangeTheChannel.  If ABC plays their cards right, they may be able to overtake FOX or CBS next fall.

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ABC Entertainment Group President Channing Dugney is taking bold strokes with the 2017-18 calendar season.  Not by creative prowess, but rather resorting to reboots, revivals and comfort food people were familiar with in the past.  She is banking heavily on an American Idol revival, which has received considerable praise and criticism for its innovative judge roster, as well as returning too soon after the original series ended in 2016.  Dugney is positioning this risky puzzle piece on Sundays, which have not generated a hit since 2014 when Once Upon a Time and Revenge cornered the Sunday scripted market.  ABC's American Idol is undoubtedly never going to reach the ratings zenith the FOX version did in the 2000's, but perhaps could maintain a respectable 1.5 demographic average and become the next "hit" for ABC this spring.

Until March 12, viewers will have to watch favored reality TV franchises America's Funniest Home Videos and Shark Tank get saturated across the four-hour time block.  Over in the disintegrating Tuesday night schedule, things will be shaken up during the March scheduling as well.  Ever-middling Fresh Off the Boat ends its run early on March 20, opening the floodgates for Roseanne to make its return after a 21-year hiatus.  Already receiving favorable critical commentaries, the revival's light episode order received an additional episode, bringing the count to 9 episodes.  Are producers and the network gearing us for a full-season come 2018-19, or will they keep it to a limited episode delivery to keep the creativity fresh?  Either way, Roseanne is bound to make a splash on the tired Tuesdays, where series scoring a 1.3 18-49 Adult Demo Rating is considered "a hit."  Roseanne is sure to match or clear that threshold, considering the original series ranked between 2nd and 4th for its first 6 seasons.

Image result for roseanne  2018No matter how people spew crass comments, Roseanne is just what the evening needs.  The Middle, current the evening's strongest player, is bowing out in May after 9 durable seasons.  Fresh Off The Boat delivers okay ratings, much like the 1987-88 season's players like Perfect Strangers and Mr. Belvedere.  Black-ish is doing alright at 9:00, facing fierce competition from This is Us.  Still, it often ranks 2nd or 3rd in its timeslot.  And The Mayor is a certain cancellation, leaving only new players Alex, Inc and Splitting Up Together as viable replacement options.  What does that leave the audience in 2018?  With Roseanne rubbing blue collar jokes on the soft evening, someone is bound to take fancy and tune back in.

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And finally, the still-unnamed Grey's Anatomy Firehouse appears to be just what the network needs to repair the hole left by Sondaland success Scandal.  Though the series is delivering subpar ratings, often taking 3rd in its timeslot, Grey's Anatomy is still a sturdy 2nd in their space.  Only four seasons ago, Grey's 8:00 timeslot was a problematic space for the network since well into the 2000's.  Then TGIT came alight in 2014 when the series plugged the hole and paved the way for hits Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder taking the evening by storm.  Come late 2015, the fire cooled to middling embers, with the most recent seasons seeing HTGAWM delivering fractional.  Add the Grey's Anatomy: Firehouse Chili spinoff as it shall be temporarily known, and the network could have a temporary meal ticket to keep the TGIT franchise spicy.

With Grey's regularly delivering between 1.6-2.0 this 2017 season, that is a viable development bed for the fireman to pepper the evening with ratings which will not give us hot air.  ABC has a long way to go, but has ample puzzle pieces to assemble a great lineup.  Monday sensation The Good Doctor has performed above average with 1.6-2.4 ratings.  The network still has a plethora of sturdy sitcom performers strewn across Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Even ailing Designated Survivor is strong enough to plaster an undesired timeslot.  Fates are yet to be determined on aging fantasy franchises Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and Once Upon a Time, and the signs point to at least one being picked up to settle the decimated Friday lineup.  Hopefully, Channing Dugney will not make any rash moves like she did last season by cancelling Last Man Standing.  2018 could be ABC's oyster if they continue to shuck out hits and scheduling solutions.

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