Fall TV “Preview”: Fridays are back!

The fall television season is just about to begin! To celebrate, I’ll be doing a series of fun features and previews for both returning and brand-new series. I have not seen any of the new pilots or premieres from veteran series, and thus the quotes around preview. No matter, that won’t stop me from doing these bad boys, so let’s get a-previewin’!

For the longest time, Friday nights have been known as the television schedule graveyard. It’s where series go to die. If your favorite series gets moved from Tuesday to Friday, chances are, you’re not happy. In most recent seasons, some of the major networks haven’t even made much of an effort on Fridays, putting reality and news-based programming on the night.

But this season, as the title of this post suggests, Fridays are back! Well, they’re not back because I’m not sure they were ever really here, but it looks as if the networks have actually put some sort of effort into their Friday schedules. Probably not enough effort to use an exclamation point in the title of this post, but hey, let’s discuss this crazy new development.

Take a look at Fridays this fall, and you’ll find some fairly substantial properties and individuals. ABC is bringing us Dana Delaney in Body Of Proof. She’s a sizable draw in the television world, someone who can absolutely carry a series on her own. And it’s a procedural series! An appealing female performer and an accessible concept? HIT!

NBC is offering up a similar formula with a few twists, as Jimmy Smits is top-lining the series Outlaw. People love Jimmy Smits, right? And get this: He’s an outlaw Supreme Court Justice! Whoa! HIT!

On FOX, it’s all about the testosterone with the middling Human Target and The Good Guys, two series that didn’t really do anything on their own and thus should surely be a major success together! HITS!

On the CW, the network’s long-running and usually most successful series, Smallville and Supernatural, are together yet again. Both saw ratings decreases last season apart, so it makes sense that they’ll have better years now that they’re back together. It’s Smallville‘s final year and hopefully the final year for Supernatural as well, so they’re even more appealing! HITS!

On CBS, there’s all sorts of firepower. Medium is a long-running series, CSI: New York has the brand recognition and new series Blue Bloods is getting positive reviews all over the interwebs. And CBS always does well on Fridays! HITS!

Okay, but seriously. I do think that the networks are realizing that there is no reason to just give up on Fridays, for multiple reasons. It seems as if CBS’ successes in recent years, albeit small ones at that, proved to the other networks that even a few tiny victories are victories nonetheless.

Moreover, every other day on the schedule is getting ever-busy, so it’s only obvious that certain series that used to have cozy, middle-of-the-week spots are now being pushed off to Fridays because there are newer, shinier toys for audiences to play with (see: CSI: NY, Human Target, Supernatural and Smallville). But even in that respect, it’s about trusting the devil you know instead of the one you do not. Despite the cost of an older series, there’s still even more cost in producing and promoting a newer series, without the added benefits from syndication money.

Finally, perhaps the networks are finally coming around to the realization that although no one is watching television on Fridays anyway in the broadest sense, they are DVR’ing and watching that content online. And if you replace quality or even mediocre scripted series with even lower quality unscripted fare, people are probably less likely to record or watch those later. It’s not a major win, but I’m certain the networks have a better way of understanding the DVR and online figures, so I’m sure they are getting something out of it that warrants the Friday airing.

Will any of the series on Friday become major or even sizable hits? Probably not. But it is nice to see the major networks making something of an attempt with the night. Anything that leads to more well-produced, scripted programming is something we need to acknowledge, at least in the smallest of ways, exclamation points aside.

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