Timeslot Stinkers: ABC Friday, 8:30

Every schedule has holes to patch with times which deliver lackluster results.  Since the start of the 2012-13 season when ABC relocated solid multicam sitcom Last Man Standing to Friday at 8:00, they have failed to locate compatible sitcoms for a sturdy hour.  The network held a strong legacy on this evening from 1985-2000, eventually branding the evening its TGIF comedy block in 1989.  That changed as solid players ended, leading the network to sample other varieties of programming to supplement.  A brief yet less successful branding of TGIF developed from 2003-06, dispensing through several less-successful players.  Flashforward to 2012-present, and the crippling 8:30 timeslot holds ABC back from successfully reviving a TGIF block due to lackluster results following sturdy players.  Take a stroll down memory lane of scheduling fumbles.

Malibu Country (2012-13)

A sitcom featuring heavyweight performers Reba McEntire (WB/CW's Reba), Lily Tomlin (NBC Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Netflix's Grace and Frankie) and Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect) should have crackled.  The trouble came from the premise felt mildly recycled from McEntire's former sitcom Reba, as the lead (also named Reba) was also divorcing after infidelity.  18 episodes displayed, debuting at a 2.3, dropping fast to 1.7 in the next helping and eventually leveling down as low as 1.1 Live/Same Day viewing 18-49 demo averages.  In contrast, lead-in Last Man Standing hoisted a 1.5.  Where the series experienced trouble was reality TV heavyweight lead-out Shark Tank was displaying results at 1.8-2.1.  ABC opted to part with the series due to underperforming next door to one of its successful timeslots.

The Neighbors (2013-14)

Seeing potential in their struggling Wednesday freshman science-fiction sitcom, ABC relocated it to Friday 8:30 behind Last Man Standing for its 2013-14 season.  Perhaps the philosophy was "Last Man Standing moved here it's sophomore year, so let's build another success story."  This philosophy failed, as The Neighbors and Last Man Standing were incompatible.  LMS was sturdy realism, whilst The Neighbors was a fantasy sitcom with a normal family relocating to a gated community populated full of peaceful aliens.  Live/Same Day 18-49 Demos ranged from 0.8-1.2 for The Neighbors' 2nd season, frighteningly lower than any extraterrestrial display could ever visualize.  Again wedged between two heavyweights, The Neighbors were forced to fly home at the conclusion of the season.

Cristela (2014-15)

ABC reverted not only back to freshman pilots for the 8:30 timeslot, but also returned to multicam production.  They opted for Cristela, a heralded, diverse showing following the self-titled star as she updates her life in her 30's and decides to take a swing at the bar exam.  The defining sitcom split the action between Cristela's homelife living with her extended family, as well as the intriguing workplace which Cristela not only mingled with fellow interns while mildly fending off Hispanic typecasting.  Cameo performances from Roseanne Barr as Veronica Culpepper injected life into the new series, which appeared to be locating its tonal balance.  Ratings  for the timeslot did not hold, as it debuted with a solid 1.3 and averaged between 0.8-1.0 deeper into the season.  ABC opted to wipe the slate clean and start anew at the close of the season.

For more information on Cristela's premise, please visit HERE for an in depth analysis of this lost sitcom jewel.

Dr. Ken (2015-17)

Keeping to its prior interests in sticking with freshman multicam scheduling, they located mild success with Dr. Ken, heralded comedian/physician Ken Jeong's self-titled piece.  Ratings started strong, besting Cristela with a 1.5 Live/SD 18-48 demo.  Those numbers faded as the season burned down to 0.9 by spring, strong enough for ABC to grant a renewal as Shark Tank began to fade with age, and the series retained enough of Last Man Standing's audience.  Dr. Ken also arrived during an anomaly which two ABC sitcoms were lead by Asian-American casts, both contrast and independent in production.

Come season 2, the results delivered with a 0.9 debut out of strong LMS's 1.1.  Save for a mild 1.1 reprieve in January 2017, the series tunneled as low as 0.7 by the season's close as it faced stiffer competion from CBS during the entirety of its run.  ABC ultimately hocked Dr. Ken.  Not only due to dwindling ratings, but it lost its compatible multicam lead-in, Last Man Standing as ABC president Channing Dugney desired a change to Friday viewing.  LMS lost its solid meal ticket as it was (then) outsourced from FOX, where it would be revived the following season.  Dr. Ken may have made a nice bench warmer for failed sitcom timeslots, albeit one of the last multicam sitcom helpings ABC ever offered.

No Laughing Matter without Sitcoms (2017-18)

Dugney's vision of sitcom-free Fridays appeared to be a solution which bundled the troubled 8:30 timeslot into aging Sunday transplant Once Upon a Time.  Seeking an overhaul and update to the series by firing half the cast, the results not only underwhelmed long time viewers, but lowered the bar on Friday viewing.  The silver lining was it lowered it so far, it relaxed the standards for ABC to shop out sitcoms to return to the ruined landscape.

Speechless (2018-19)

Critically acclaimed Speechless crackled during its first season in 2016-17, delivering between 1.4-1.8 wedged between heavyweights The Goldbergs and Modern Family.  Season 2 experienced a fade, often with the sophomore season delivering a 1.1 as its neighbors boasted 1.6-1.7 18-49 demo deliveries.  Deciding against ending the series, ABC opted to relocate it to Fridays, paired with on-the-move Fresh Off the Boat.  Speechless experienced a 50-percent drop, averaging between 0.4-0.6 and ending with a 0.51 average for the 3rd season.  ABC decided against a 4th season after 63 episodes.  Perhaps a bit hasty, as this series may have helped plug several holes in the schedule the following season and made it to syndication.

Fresh Off the Boat (2019-20)

Reaching a higher episode count after a lengthy run, FOTB slid to the 8:30 timeslot in hopes American Housewife may lead the network to a stronger delivery.  Each episode delivered between 0.3-0.5, despite its lead star Constance Wu's controversial outburst upon hearing the series was renewed.  ABC opted to retire the series in February 2020 after 116 episodes.  And a slew of timeslots as ABC housed this well-written sitcom in more timeslots than a married boss' mistress' roster of No-Tell-Motel's she was checked into.  Farewell to a groundbreaking sitcom, which not only displayed an Asian-American family for 6 solid seasons but also paid great ode to the 1995-2000 flashback period.

Where Next, ABC?

8 seasons of modest to critical failures demonstrates a longstanding problem in scheduling.  ABC tried new, old, unfunny and everything between.  They house great opportunity with Fridays given American Housewife's sturdy deliveries leave an opening for the future.  Perhaps relocating a middling player might be key, as they need all hands on deck once Modern Family bows out.  Wednesdays are no longer powerhouse, and Tuesdays remain in an uneven rhythm with The Conners outlying a sea of middling players.  Perhaps Bless This Mess or Single Parents may make a compatible piece for American Housewife.  Or moving modest Black-ish and prequel Mixed-ish to this evening to create compatible family-friendly showings for ABC.

Sources: A special thank you to TV Series Finale for its dedicated vault of play by play episode data, helping readers remain educated in television history

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