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Mid-Season Burning Questions

It's Round 2 for the networks as they head into mid-season. As CBS and Fox dominate, ABC is hoping to continue its momentum and NBC's looking for a break. Here are hot topics to consider this winter. Will new drama Smash and the return of The Voice finally hit some high notes for NBC?The Peacock's execs and its competitors all agree this is the key question for winter. "NBC is going to have a very sleepless night the evening both shows premiere," says one rival. "That night is going to...

Michael Schneider

It's Round 2 for the networks as they head into mid-season. As CBS and Fox dominate, ABC is hoping to continue its momentum and NBC's looking for a break. Here are hot topics to consider this winter.

Will new drama Smash and the return of The Voice finally hit some high notes for NBC?
The Peacock's execs and its competitors all agree this is the key question for winter. "NBC is going to have a very sleepless night the evening both shows premiere," says one rival. "That night is going to determine the fate of NBC for the rest of the season." It's unclear whether a broad audience will be interested in Smash's Broadway themes or if ratings for The Voice will sing in Year Two. But The Voice has a Super Bowl lead-in for its premiere on Feb. 5, and then airs again before Smash's launch on Feb. 6. "Resetting Monday night entirely is a risk," admits NBC scheduling head Lisa Vebber. "It's a tough night of competition, and CBS is strong. But we have two creatively strong shows. Hopefully we can build something there."

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Will American Idol come back as big as last year, or has The X Factor created viewer fatigue for singing competitions?
"Going into its 11th season, it doesn't seem to be losing steam," Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman says of Idol. "It's always about the talent, and if we have the talent, we'll be fine." Unlike last season, the first for new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, rivals aren't predicting gloom and doom for Idol. "Would I be surprised if they came back as strong as ever? Not really," says a competitor. However, the last time Idol premiered, there was no X Factor or The Voice, and the landscape may have shifted. "As a viewer, you probably need to pick and choose your music shows. It's hard to believe viewers can have an alliance to three different singing shows."

Can ABC successfully launch GCB as a Desperate Housewives replacement?
The network scored with two new dramas (Revenge and Once Upon a Time) this fall but may see its momentum slow in mid-season as those serialized hours head into repeats. Meanwhile, Housewives is slumping in its final season and won't be much help as a lead-in to the campy GCB when it launches in March. But critics like GCB — and ABC seems to be on a roll.

When will fan favorites Community and Cougar Town return?
NBC and ABC are mum, frustrating fans who have turned to Twitter to save their shows. Both will have plenty of episodes in the can and will be back by spring. "This is by no means the end of Community," Vebber says, noting that the show may benefit from airing a string of new episodes, with no repeats, later this season. Cougar Town exec producer Bill Lawrence has hinted on Twitter that he expects his show to be back "soon in the New Year."

Can The CW finally break a new reality show?
The mini network has had a tough time finding an unscripted series to complement America's Next Top Model but hopes that the similarly themed Remodeled may do the trick. The CW will launch Remodeled by airing it five times over the course of eight nights this month (starting Tuesday, Jan. 17). "You need to give viewers the most chances possible to find new shows," says CW scheduler Kevin Levy.

Do viewers still remember AMC's Mad Men?
By the time Don Draper returns in March, it will have been 17 months since the last original episode of Mad Men. The show's small fan base is loyal, however, so despite the long break between seasons, audiences may still be mad for Men. "What we're hearing is nothing but excitement and anticipation for the return," says AMC president Charlie Collier. Adds a competitor: "I think fans of the show have gotten used to the lengthy gaps between original episodes." 

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