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2017 Upfront trends

With the upfronts in the books we are getting our first look at how the new fall season could shake out. While it is still too early to make any real determinations, a number of trends have emerged that are indicative of what we should expect. Here are a few things you should know before the TV season resets and the airwaves get a little more crowded.


Military Dependence

Every year we see a common theme throughout the network’s new offerings. Whether its movie adaptations, medical dramas or multi-camera (i.e. laugh-track) comedies - every network tends to think along similar lines. This year it was military drams as NBC, CBS and (for some reason) The CW each are bringing the armed forces to TV in a major way. While “American Sniper” dominated at the box office, I’m not sold we will see the same reaction on the small screen, but we will all find out together.


It’s Game On For Friday Nights

While CBS has led the pack on Friday nights for years (and likely will continue to), both ABC and NBC are making a play. Going up against the Eye’s reliable trio of procedurals will be ABC’s re-located “Once Upon A Time” and Marvel’s “Inhumans”/”Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as well as NBC’s also re-located “Blindspot” and “Taken.”  It’s an interesting approach as sans “Inhumans” these are shows that are solid but not spectacular ratings performers. Although people do (contrary to belief) watch TV on Friday nights and this is going to be make it a much more interesting battle for viewers.


The Networks Are Going Off-Script

It’s been reported ABC’s “The Gospel of Kevin” had been testing internally through the roof but based on the cut-down teaser I’m wondering if those results will carry with the public. It’s an odd concept that essentially revolves around a jerk that changes his life around when a guardian angel reveals he has a special purpose. I’m also wondering if the public can tolerate Seth McFarlane for an hour with his space comedy “The Orville” and I say that as a big “Family Guy” fan. It just seems like a better half-hour-concept.  


NBC is banking on “This Is Us”

This wasn’t a shock as we all know what a phenomenon “This Is Us” has become but NBC really out-did itself. Not only did the network put its biggest weapon on Thursday nights but it gave it the post-Super Bowl slot. Yes Thursday nights mean a battle with CBS’ comedies and ABC’s TGIT” line-up, but let’s be realistic based on the show’s freshman success, this isn’t really going to be a contest.


Smarter Comedy

This may be more of an overall trend than a 2017-2018 one but the networks have gotten smarter with comedies and in the fall are trying to group them in a smarter way. NBC is sticking with its pairing of “Superstore” and “The Good Place” but moving them to Tuesday, sandwiched between dependable rating earners “The Voice” and “Chicago Fire,” ABC is shifting “Black-ish” to Tuesday and giving another urban-centric comedy “The Mayor” a strong lead-in and Fox is partnering the long-running with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” with freshman hit “The Mick” following a “Lethal Weapon” lead-in. It’s all about location.


The CW Knows It’s Become The Super-Hero Channel

CW head Mark Pedowitz made an interesting comment in which he said he knows his network is succeeding with superheroes but he wants to be cognizant not air more than four at a time. I give him credit as many executives would have milked that trend until it dried up. The problem is that The CW is still leaning heavily on comic-properties and adding “Riverdale,” “iZombie” and the new “Black Lightning” to the “Arrow-verse” further tilts the balance thus making it harder for a “Valor,” “Life Sentence” or “Dynasty” to find audiences.


Spoilish Trailers

Pro tip – the first trailer for any new series is likely a FULL recap of the first episode but shrunk down to under 5 minutes. For those not familiar with that trend it can be very off-putting to be completely spoiled by every major twist before the show even airs. NBC’s “This Is Us” became a big hit last year by specifically bucking that trend and leaving some (actual) mystery, sadly this year’s crop doubled-down the opposite way.


Many Buzzy Rookies Are Not Even Slotted Yet

If you go back and read all the buzz about new shows you may be shocked to see many of them aren’t on the fall schedule. While we knew The CW’s “Black Lightning” was going to be delayed, it was a little surprising to see “Rise,” the latest from Must-Cry TV master Jason Katims held for 2018. Ditto for ABC’s high-profile “The Crossing” (aka “Lost” meets “Resurrection”) and “Deception” (aka “Castle” with magic). Fox also is holding back its “LA to Vegas” comedy which is headlined by scene-stealing Dylan McDermott.

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