Where Will Survivor Go in February?
We know Survivor II will launch in the Outback immediately after January's Super Bowl. So, the big question: where will CBS slot the second excursion-of-16 after opening night?
My colleague Marc Berman of "Mediaweek" and I have had a friendly forecast session on this very subject. I won't tell you Marc's prediction because he may well be right and I'll feel terribly inferior.
You have to understand network logic (isn't that an oxymoron of a phrase?) to follow the thinking on this. First, scratch Friday and Saturday. CBS is not going to waste this series on the two lowest-rated nights of the week. Sunday is also a lockout, too, since CBS is not going to drop its movie and Touched By an Angel still owns the Sunday-at-8 slot. Kill 8-10 Mondays because CBS is perfectly happy with the demographics of its male-oriented comedy block.
That leaves four (actually, five possibilities). Here we go:
Wednesday at 8: Natural logic suggests going right back in the time period where success was first found. That doesn't always happen. Hee Haw, The Johnny Cash Show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour---the four biggest non-game show summer hits of all time---were all brought back at midseason in time slots other than where they aired during summer, to varying degrees of success.
My prediction: despite the obvious salivating over going head-on against Millionaire, from which I'm convinced ABC would promptly retreat and wisely so, Thursdays at 8 will be the move. Too much damage can be done to NBC and the opposition has tried valiantly to finally unlock the door against those Peacock sexcoms. Millionaire picked that lock in the last year and Survivor could kick it in. If not Thursdays, CBS will clear out those sitcoms on Wednesdays and bring Jeff Probst and friends right back in their original slot.
Safety suggests why tamper with success. However, Survivor is proving it will have at least a short-term success during a regular season just as Millionaire did last year because of the margin of ratings victory over its opposition. That, in itself, may be why CBS will consider risking a time slot other than Wednesday at 8.
CBS is heavily trumpeting its new Bette with The Divine Miss M, which I predict will be one of the long line of overrated sitcoms with big-name stars. CBS hasn't had a sitcom hit on Wednesday nights since The Beverly Hillbillies (don't tell me The Nanny was a hit. Fran Drescher limped along for three years on Wednesdays with marginal ratings). My prediction is for Bette to be a success, it has to go in CBS's Monday night block. If that forecast is right, the network may go ahead with Survivor here and shift the Midler show at midseason.
Mondays at 10: This is probably the least likely choice. However, don't rule it out. Survivor is very much an adult show and the CBS affiliates would love nothing better than to have a lead-in for their late local news with the impact of the series.
CBS would have to move Family Law, which drew so-so ratings last season, even after the end of football season. However, as much of a franchise as Les Moonves feels he has with this show, I could see Survivor being considered for the late Monday slot because it would burn NBC's Third Watch and ABC's Once and Again combined.
CBS would give its affiliates a long-needed strong 10:00 show and also offer a spillover boost to Dave Letterman's Monday night ratings.
Tuesday at 8: Again, this would require a move. JAG was wounded against WWTBAM last year and ABC knows Survivor is a Millionaire neutralizer, at least at the moment.
CBS could consider a midseason move of JAG to Thursday night if it decides to give up on the unlikely-to-succeed City of Angels. Mark my word: if CBS slots Survivor against any one of the weeknight Millionaire episodes, ABC will quickly move that WWTBAM to Fridays at 9. ABC has four male-oriented comedies which are all going to crash and burn on its revamped Friday night.
Thursdays at 9: Actually, CBS could potentially slot Survivor at any hour Thursdays but I don't see a head-on challenge to ER coming. Plopping opposite Millionaire would likely not happen because ABC has the option of switching to Fridays before 20/20.
Thursdays at 8: Think of this, CBS would have two options with the show with the oldest demographics in television, Diagnosis: Murder. Move it to 9 or put it on hiatus and burn the remainder of the season's episodes off in summer. What has a tremendous amount of appeal here: with Survivor, CBS may well drive a stake or at least tear a muscle in the long-time dominance of NBC's aging Friends. NBC's 8:30 show is meaningless here. Fox has nothing to offer on Thursdays. ABC's Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a loyal, steady but limited following.
Survivor may, if slotted at 8 and combined with ABC with WWTBAM at 9, serve to finally end the 16-year NBC dominance on Thursday nights. That's why I think CBS may well look at this opening and go for it.
POST-GAME NOTES: A Richmond writer accidentally happened onto the finish of Wednesday night's Survivor six hours before the show aired. For some odd reason, a story appeared on the CBS website around 2:00 (ET) which was a virtual press release of the results. That's not toying with the media, that's just pure stupidity.....By the way, for C-band dish owners, Survivor is fed in a preview to stations at 4:30 a.m. (ET) Wednesday mornings....If we could vote at home on the Survivor oustings, Richard Hatch would get my vote tomorrow. I'm not terribly fond of any of the remaining group but Hatch is as arrogant and an even more deviant manipulator in his own way as Will Collins is on Big Brother....Why a sixth night of Big Brother? Even with its mediocre ratings, which are lower by two points than the summer run for Whose Line Is It Anyway? in '98, CBS is in love with the ratings in the 18-34 demo and feels viewers will stay around after Survivor in much larger numbers for the vote-outs if they're on Wednesdays.... I'm sure they're already selected but I'd love to see GSN make a last-minute change and insert one of the episodes with Meredith MacRae and her Petticoat Junction sisters on the All-Star Family Feud marathon July 29....GSN will continue those marathons into August....Laura Chambers hosted a party last weekend in L.A. for a number of the Greed contestants....Don't be surprised at an ABC midseason lineup on Fridays which includes a combination of The Runner, You Don't Know Jack, The People Versus... or Millionaire. I don't know why on earth they think four male-oriented sitcoms will work there. Ray Romano would have been canceled on Fridays if CBS hadn't had faith enough in his show to move it.
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