Prime-Time TV Shows Need Winning Time Slot

Viewers are a few weeks into the fall television season and the axe has already fallen on some new shows — while others are starting to demonstrate star power. Morning Edition's Renee Montagne talks to NPR TV critic Eric Deggans about fall TV winners and losers.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hopefully, this hasn't happened to you. You were just getting excited about a new television show, and then it disappeared from the air - may have happened. We're a few weeks into the fall television season, and the ax has already fallen on some new shows. Others, though, are starting to show their star power.

Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, joined our colleague, Renee Montagne, to talk about the losers and winners so far.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Right now, what's winning is the time slot, strangely enough. We're so used to hearing about people watching television on DVR, recorded, or they're watching it on their smartphones, or they're watching it on their tablets. But what we discovered this fall is that when a show airs on primetime still matters.

One of the biggest hits to come along is NBC's "The Blacklist." It stars James Spader as this very charismatic criminal who suddenly decides to start helping the FBI. Let's listen to a little bit of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BLACKLIST")

JAMES SPADER: (as Raymond Reddington) What if I were to deliver to you a terrorist? Not your run-of-the-mill ideologue answering to bearded men in caves, but someone entirely different.

DEGGANS: Yeah, you've got to love that. So, he's this charismatic psychopath kind of guy. But the show airs after "The Voice," which is a very popular reality singing show that NBC has. And "The Voice" is funneling this huge audience to "The Blacklist," and it's become a success. And, in fact, it's really damaged a show on CBS that airs against it called "Hostages" that is also kind of similar. And people thought that show would do better and it isn't, because "The Blacklist" is getting this huge audience from "The Voice."

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

OK, Eric. So, time slot is still important, which will surprise a lot of people because, of course, we all think now everyone is recording shows on their DVRs and watching them when they want to watch them, in their own time.

DEGGANS: No, and what we discovered this fall is that people are still hanging out on a network. For example, if you look on Thursday nights, Thursday nights on CBS is started with "The Big Bang Theory," which is a really popular show, and it is funneling a whole lot of viewers through that whole night. And it leads to a show called "The Crazy Ones," with Robin Williams. Let's check out a little bit of that one.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE CRAZY ONES")

SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR: (as Sydney Roberts) Dad, there's a room full of McDonald's executives waiting for you, and you're playing with toys.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: (as Simon Roberts) It's not a toy. It's an emotional surrogate. And I'm not playing. I'm hiding.

DEGGANS: So, Robin Williams plays this very charismatic, but slightly unhinged ad exec. And he runs an advertising firm with his daughter, who's played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who's more buttoned-down. And the appeal of Robin Williams coming back to television was huge and drew a lot of people. But they had that audience available because "The Big Bang Theory" drew it in the first place.

And so we might see the reverse of that, for example, on Monday nights, where CBS advanced a show called "We Are Men," and it really derailed the ratings, because it got really bad ratings. And people kind of left CBS and went to other places to watch other shows. So we can see this dynamic work and not work in different parts of the schedule.

MONTAGNE: Well, that sort of gets us to losers, shows that just didn't work and, in fact, got cancelled really fast. Talk to us about those shows.

DEGGANS: Yeah. Another thing we saw this fall is that the networks are not being patient with shows at all. If they get bad ratings for a week or two, they are gone. So, shows like "Lucky 7" on ABC, "We Are Men," I talked about, on CBS, "Welcome to the Family" and a remake of "Ironside." And those shows got cancelled within two weeks of bad ratings.

MONTAGNE: Eric Deggans is NPR's TV critic. Thanks for joining us.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

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