Timeslot Sinkers: Fox Sunday, 8:30

Timeslot Sinkers: Fox Sunday, 8:30

Scene from the Family Guy & Simpsons crossover

During the late-2000s and early 2010s, the Fox network became notorious for housing a large collection of raunchy adult cartoons for their Sunday night lineup. Stylized as "Animation Domination", Fox reserved the final day of the weekend for Homer Simpson, Hank Hill, Peter Griffin, and other hand-drawn specimen to entertain anxious viewers dreading the start of the work week. For the longest time, live-action programs were not allowed to step foot on the premises. That all changed during the 2014-2015 television season when the network opted to place Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the comfy 8:30pm timeslot between The Simpsons and Family Guy in an attempt to help the sitcom grow an audience. Not since 2006 had the ones in charge taken a stab at live-action on Sundays. Until 2014, two-season flame-out The War at Home served as the last instance where real people were welcome to mingle with the animated residents. This Timeslot Sinkers article takes a look at the many shows that have populated the 8:30pm timeslot on Fox Sundays since the network granted live-action fare access to the lucrative opening.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2014-15)

The aforementioned Andy Samberg-led comedy became the first live-action series to air in the timeslot during the 2010s decade. While a middling performer during its first season on Tuesdays, Brooklyn Nine-Nine exploded to an enormous 2.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic for its second season premiere, sandwiched between even larger results from The Simpsons (3.9) & Family Guy (4.5). That number more than doubled the 1.3 it garnered for its first season finale & even went above the 2.6 it boasted for its series premiere. Even on nights when the lineup was not boosted by an NFL overrun, Brooklyn remained a sturdy performer, generally losing only a sliver of its Simpsons lead-in. When its sophomore season came to a close, the cop comedy was up 13% from the seasonal average it posted the previous year. That upward momentum led to the series securing the slot once more for its third season. Unfortunately for the Nine-Nine, it only got to air ten more episodes on Sunday before Fox decided to ship it back to Tuesdays. Although the sitcom still remained a strong player in the 8:30 slot (Going as high as a 2.0 rating during its last few months on Sunday), the network decided they would rather provide new programs the benefit of airing after The Simpsons instead of having Brooklyn clog up the slot. Thus, Nine-Nine was booted back to its original night to fend for itself.

Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life (2016)

Arriving on the third day of the new year, Cooper Barrett immediately revealed that it was a significant downgrade from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The single-camera comedy with an absurdly long title debuted with just a 1.2 rating, dropping 40% of the audience that viewed The Simpsons (2.0) just a half-hour earlier. Prospects brightened in week two when significant help from football pushed it all the way to a 2.1, a notch above Brooklyn's fall 2015 high. By episode three, it almost seemed like it had a shot at renewal, retaining its 1.2 premiere rating despite Simpsons taking a larger hit. That spark of hope flickered out when Barrett returned after roughly a month off to a meager 0.8, below Brooklyn Nine-Nine's low in the timeslot & substantially weaker than its 1.3 leadin. It held onto that miserable number for three more weeks until Fox sent it packing and summoned Bob's Burgers to come out from its cupboard under the stairs (the undesirable 7:30 slot) and patch up the hole they created thanks to another horrendous scheduling decision. The rest of Barrett's run reached frighteningly low territory in the 7:00pm hour. Its June 26th series finale pulled an alarming 0.3 and the show was never heard from again. Even if Cooper and his pals managed to survive life, they certainly were no match for the cancellation bear. Barrett met its maker after a single thirteen-episode season.

Son of Zorn (2016-17)

Out of every new show Fox has unveiled in this slot, Son of Zorn easily had the strongest chance to succeed. Unlike anything that came before or after it, Zorn was offered the opportunity to air its first episode directly after football. As a result, the animated warrior pulled in a hefty 2.4 Nielsen rating for its debut. While the half-animated sitcom never got back to those lofty heights, it remained a decent performer airing after America's favorite yellow family. From September to January, the comedy produced numbers in the 1.2-1.8 range when an NFL overrun elevated the night and Nielsens in the 0.9-1.1 range when it did not have that luxury. Although it barely retained half of The Simpsons at times, its ratings were seemingly solid enough for a renewal. Unfortunately for fans, its penultimate broadcast ruined the possibility of the Jason Sudeikis series returning for season two. Opposite the Grammy Awards, Zorn plummeted to a paltry 0.6, 33% below its previous low point. Although it inched up for its finale the following week, Fox still decided to pull the plug on Son of Zorn after just thirteen episodes. Even if it wasn't a total misfire, it fell far too much given how ripe its situation was.

Making History (2017)

Even before airing a single episode, Making History was doomed to fail. The time-travel comedy starring Adam Pally, Leighton Meester, and Yassir Lester arrived in March with minimal promotion and no chance of receiving aid from an NFL overrun. Given those bleak circumstances, the 0.9 rating it managed for its premiere was relatively respectable. History lost only two-tenths from The Simpsons (1.1) and bested the finale of Zorn (0.7) that aired two weeks prior. Sadly, things only went downhill from there as episode two (0.7) experienced a 22% ratings decline. From then on, it posted two more 0.7s and five-straight 0.6s while The Simpsons fluctuated between a 0.9 and 1.0 rating. A little over two months after it first aired, Fox laid the sitcom to rest before it even managed to reach a double-digit episode count. The cards were stacked against Making History from day one and Fox never gave it enough support for it to excel. One can only wonder how it would have performed if the series had nabbed the fall slot instead of Zorn

Ghosted (2017-18)

Sci-fi comedy series Ghosted became the fourth program to air after The Simpsons in a two-year time span. Initially, the X-Files-inspired sitcom performed about as well as could be expected. The 1.4 rating it produced for its series premiere was significantly stronger than anything the last three comedies had done on nights without NFL help. The Adam Scott & Craig Robinson vehicle also retained 100% of The Simpsons for that first showing. But, like most of these programs, that first outing was essentially its peak save for the 1.6 it posted for its final regularly-scheduled installment. Nevertheless, Ghosted remained a respectable performer throughout its fall 2017 run. For the most part, it only lost around three-tenths from Simpsons on a normal night & held more than half of its lead-in when a football game lifted the lineup. But, in a bizarre turn of events, the series aired just one episode in 2018 (January 7th) before being plucked from its timeslot indefinitely. A slightly rebooted version of the program reappeared five months later during the summer months. Consequently, it churned out an unpleasant 0.4 for its first post-hiatus broadcast and remained frozen in that range until its series finale. Given that Ghosted pulled acceptable numbers during its initial run, the fact that it never got to air out its episode order during the regular television season was both unprecedented and uncalled for. In the end, it became yet another Fox sitcom to find itself on the chopping block after just a single season.

Back to Brooklyn (2018) 

Nearly three years after it last aired regularly on Sunday, Fox enlisted the help of veteran sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine (during its fifth season) by bringing it back to the timeslot where it thrived during 2014 and 2015. Even though the police comedy had been pulling underwhelming ratings on Tuesday nights in fall 2017, the series came back to life during its first 2018 showing in March. The 0.9 it generated served as a season high, outperforming The Simpsons that first evening back. For the following two months, Brooklyn either matched its Simpsons lead-in or fell only a tenth or two below it. In spite of its remarkable resurgence, the network still decided to cancel the comedy after five seasons. Although it was picked up by NBC for subsequent seasons, Fox's decision to end it remains a mind-boggling one given that its numbers trumped what it was doing for the back-half of its fourth year. 

Back to Bob's Burgers (2018-19)

Severely undervalued Bob's Burgers made a triumphant return to the 8:30 slot in the fall of 2018. After being tossed around the schedule for years, the animated sitcom acquired its former timeslot for the entirety of the 2018-2019 television season, something that had not happened since its second season. To the surprise of no one, the Emmy-winning comedy did an outstanding job capitalizing on the upgrade. From February to May 2019, Bob's usually matched the ratings of The Simpsons and even eclipsed Homer, Bart, and Lisa on multiple occasions. Likely impressed by its trajectory, Fox gave it the more coveted 9:00pm slot the following year and scheduled a new program at 8:30.

Bless the Harts (2019-20)

Not a single live-action comedy coexisted with the animated staples during the fall of 2019. It seemed like Fox had finally abandoned shows of that variety on Sunday nights, veering back to the signature Animation Domination brand. Ironically, the animated Bless the Harts ended up retaining less of its Simpsons leadin than supposedly incompatible live-action comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Ghosted. Harts remained an eyesore for its 10-episode inaugural season, falling to a pitiful 0.5 rating on one occasion and consistently clocking in as the lowest-rated program of the night. A showing on November 10th saw it lose nearly 60% of the audience that viewed Simpsons, a feat not even duds like Cooper Barrett or Zorn managed to accomplish. In spite of its lackluster performance, the series was renewed for a second season (unlike any other newbie to grace the 8:30 timeslot since Bob's Burgers). Nonetheless, that does not take away from the fact that it garnered numbers far worse than a lot of the offerings previously mentioned.

Where Next, FOX?

For the foreseeable future, it appears the Fox network will be sticking with animation in the 8:30 timeslot. Cartoon sitcom Duncanville arrives to replace Bless the Harts on February 16, 2020 and will serve as the first program to debut in the slot during the new decade. For what it's worth, familiar faces like Bob's Burgers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine provided stability to the timeslot and generally performed respectably when placed after Simpsons. As far as everything else Fox placed in the slot, their numbers were either masked by the guise of NFL assistance or they never performed well to begin with. Because of this, the network erratically changed what was airing in the plush timeslot and ultimately never found much prosperity. What this essentially proves is that networks can never force viewers to tune in to an unrecognizable new series. Even when placed between powerhouses like The Simpsons and Family Guy, audiences will actively avoid the show if they don't enjoy what they see.

What did you think of this Timeslot Sinkers article? Do you miss some of the canceled shows mentioned? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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