The broadcast networks haven't been feeling the love from viewers this fall, and it won't be getting any easier. Here are some big challenges they face as they try to sway hearts, minds and remotes in the second half of the season.
Will high-flying NBC falter when Sunday Night Football ends and Revolution and The Voice take a break?
"It's going to be different," admits NBC's scheduling guru Jeff Bader. "But we have faith in The Biggest Loser on Monday." He also believes Deception, a serialized murder mystery that will replace Revolution starting Jan. 7 and follow Loser, will appeal to the weight-loss competition's audience. NBC will test the returning Smash on Tuesdays; it will have to find viewers without the strong lead-in it had from The Voice last season. "The feeling with Smash is that it's a unique show," says Bader. "We'll give it a lot of attention. But it has to make it on its own." Competitors believe NBC will be counting the days until The Voice and Revolution return on March 25. "They will be in fourth place when they don't have The Voice," predicts an executive at a rival network.
Can Fox succeed with the dark drama The Following?
After a disastrous fall season, Fox is looking to jump-start its lineup with The Following, which debuts Jan. 21. In this psychological thriller, created by Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries), Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI agent called back into action to track down a serial killer (James Purefoy). Fox execs admit that The Following's content — including ultra-violence more reminiscent of Dexter than CSI — may be a tough sell for advertisers and makes marketing the series a bit of a challenge. (Ads have reportedly been nixed on billboards located near Los Angeles schools.) But in a season that found cable making big inroads in prime time, The Following could bring some much-needed buzz back to broadcast TV.
How will CBS fix its Monday comedy lineup?
The network just cancelled the ratings-challenged freshmen sitcom Partners, but finding a replacement will be tricky. CBS was counting on another new comedy, Friend Me, as a midseason backup for Mondays. That show's future is now looking doubtful due to the recent death of exec producer Alan Kirschenbaum. Expect repeats of CBS' other hits, such as Two and Half Men and 2 Broke Girls, to fill Mondays at 8:30pm for a while, with another round of Rules of Engagement taking over later in the season.
Wll Sex and the City fans flock to The CW's Carrie Diaries?
The CW is on target with Arrow and ordered a full season of Beauty and the Beast, but the quirky Emily Owens M.D. hasn't offered a prescription for success. Still, the network appears to do best with familiar franchises, and The Carrie Diaries (debuting Jan. 14) takes a popular character — Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw — and puts her in the middle of a stylish coming-of-age tale. Setting the show in 1984, before many of The CW's viewers were even born, is risky but may also attract a broader audience than the network's core young viewers.
Will Jimmy Kimmel beat Jay Leno and David Letterman at 11:35pm?
"I don't expect we're going to win out of the gate," Kimmel told TV Guide Magazine earlier this year about his Jan. 8 move. "But we're going to have a bigger audience. You put yourself in a position to be the next dynasty." Kimmel has one thing going for him: a younger audience. ABC is playing the long game. Both Leno and Letterman will likely retire before the decade is over. When they do, Kimmel (whose deal lasts through 2015) will be the incumbent host in the slot — and no Jimmy-come-lately.