Each fall, the major broadcast networks deliver a new slate of shows that are designed to intrigue, entertain, and bring people back into the fold all season long. Each year, of course, there are an equal number of great successes and miserable failures put forth by these networks in an attempt to gain the attention of viewers. In fall 2012, the highest performing television shows were, for perhaps the first time, almost entirely those shows that were returning for another season. New shows, conversely, fared pretty poorly during fall debuts. Each category has a number of great performers that most people simply can’t stop watching.
The Big Winner: Sports, As Always
There are few things more highly rated than weekly football games. While some of the most popular comedies on television manage to pull in a stunning 12 million Americans on a weekly basis, NFL Sunday Football manages to captivate the attention of 30 million Americans at any given time on a Sunday afternoon. That kind of popularity is hard to beat, and it’s across the board.
In Fall 2012, all four major broadcast networks reported ratings for NFL football that were not only huge, but surpassed industry expectations. That’s good news for sponsorships, of course, and it’s good news for networks that didn’t deliver the most robust slate of new hit shows during September and October.
Comedies are Led by CBS and ABC Powerhouses
NBC was the king of comedy for a very long time, but the network has struggled to keep up with major hits like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, on CBS. ABC, meanwhile has created the most popular comedy on Wednesday nights with its Modern Family offering, now in its fourth season. Meanwhile, NBC offers The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks & Recreation, all of which underperformed this Fall. Even so, 30 Rock is entering its final season and the show is well-reviewed among critics who long for more “intelligent” comedies on TV.
In 2012, the general rule of comedy on television was that the old ones were better than the new ones. Even The New Normal, on NBC, couldn’t shake up the race. The show’s ratings have steadily declined from its debut this fall.
Drama: A ‘Revolution’ in Entertainment
Few of television’s writers, producers, and directors, can stack up against J.J. Abrams. He’s the man behind shows like Lost and Alias, and now he’s got a new hit on NBC. Without a doubt, the biggest hit of the fall was NBC’s “Revolution,” which transports viewers to a post-apocalyptic world where the electricity is turned off for good, and militias have taken over the world after overthrowing major governments.
The show’s ratings were excellent in its first week, better in its second month, and stable thereafter. If there is one thing that viewers must see this season, it is probably Revolution. It has been a long time since the work of J.J. Abrams has been so easily captivating and addicting, and it’s nice to once again be lost in a total mystery, a tense drama, and a well-acted script that’s more engaging than anything else in its time slot.
Big Things on Cable, Too
For cable networks, this past fall’s lineup was stronger than ever and that’s a really great thing. Networks like FX and USA have long been trying to steal viewers away from broadcast channels with better dramas, bigger actors, and more innovative shows. In 2012, that probably reached its peak. White Collar, on USA, is one of the network’s best shows. Its summer/fall finale was one of the highest-rated ever. The network also paid homage to the Clinton family (though it denied doing so) with “Political Animals” during election season, bringing Sigourney Weaver on board for the miniseries.
Great Things Going on All Over the Place
With plenty of action in comedy, drama, cable channels, and athletic offerings, there’s really never been a better time to bring today’s hottest networks into the home. There’s a highly-rated show for everyone, and a sleeper hit for every taste a consumer might have. That makes television service a great investment and a serious value.