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There’s obviously nothing more important to the long-term success of a show than its ratings, but the numbers during a first season are notoriously unreliable. Typically what’s far more important than generating a huge number of viewers is carving out a niche of hyper-supportive people that will tune in weekly over the long haul. Take Joey and Big Bang Theory, for example. The former debuted to more than eighteen million viewers, but it slowly bled off its audience until Season 1 closed with less than nine million viewers. The latter premiered to nine million viewers and ended the season at about seven and a half. By the end of Season 2, Joey was cancelled and Big Bang Theory was actually growing its audience.
So, what new shows will wind up being Big Bang Theorys of this year? I’ve spent the past few days using my Patrick Jane-like non-psychic reasoning skills. I’ve examined ratings. I’ve searched around Internet fan boards, and I’ve used a healthy dose of common sense, mixed in with a wee bit of personal bias to come up with a group of eight I predict will be churning out new episodes five years from now.
Plaster on your best agreement or disagreement faces and get ready for the big reveals. These are seven shows that will make it over the long haul…
FOX’s Brooklyn Nine-NineCritical Response: Big Thumbs Up.
Ratings: Not Good. Holding Steady Between 3 and 4 million.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ratings are borderline embarrassing. Ten years ago, similar numbers would have caused plenty of double takes and an immediate cancellation, but in 2013 on a network that’s floundering, they were enough to generate a back nine order and even enthusiasm. You see, the ratings might be terrible, but they’re the same level of terrible every single week. Since episode three, every new airing has generated somewhere between 3.34 and 3.84 million viewers, which means the show has found an audience and ideally will be able to build on it. In fact, the total viewers have been up marginally three weeks in a row.
Considering the show is hysterical, it was created by Office and Parks and Recreation producer Michael Schur and the demographics skew very young, there is every reason to think FOX will give the show as long as possible to find its footing and build a slightly bigger audience. If it can do that and hold steady around 5 million or so, there’s no reason to think it won't have a trajectory along the lines of Community, Raising Hope or if all of the stars align, 30 Rock.
NBC’s The BlacklistCritical Response: Thumbs Up.
Ratings: Very Good. Every episode has done between 12.58 million and 10.34 million
The Blacklist is a strange combination between old and new. It contains the fast pace and adult content younger viewers look for, but at its core, the program is still a mystery of the week procedural involving an unexpected outsider partnering with law enforcement to solve crimes. In this case, it’s a sketchy criminal who can’t be trusted, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not too far of a leap from The Mentalist or Elementary or even its timeslot competitor Castle.
Procedural viewers tend to be loyal over the long haul, and by all accounts, the creators have learned to go just far enough to please younger viewers and not quite far enough to scare off older generations. With ratings remaining so steady, a back nine order already submitted and some critics going so far as to recommend NBC begin ordering pilots to potential pair with the show, The Blacklist is in a wonderful long-term position. So, apart from James Spader experiencing a dramatic uptick in the number of movie roles he’s offered and deciding to leave, it’s hard to imagine this show won’t hit episode one hundred five years or so from now.
FOX’s Sleepy HollowCritical Response: Better Than Average.
Ratings: Pretty Good. Debuted to 10 million, is now doing just over 7.
Like The Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow has figured out a way to churn out self-contained episodes and still keep in mind an overarching premise. Unlike The Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for a second season, assumedly as a way to let viewers know the show will be here for awhile and is worth investing in. That brash display of confidence no doubt has the writers, creators and stars sleeping a little easier, but even without that thumbs up, it’s pretty obvious there’s a really great television premise here, one that’s quirky and thought-provoking enough to appeal to fantasy fans and still broad and relatable enough to entice those who aren’t necessarily always drawn to the genre.
In the hands of another showrunner, Sleepy Hollow could have spent its first half dozen efforts zealously investigating the mystery related to the main character and the Headless Horseman. Instead, great effort was put into opening the world up, a la Buffy The Vampire Slayer, as a way to let in an uncountable number of potential foes of various demonic or weird origins. That should give everyone involved enough material for years moving forward.
CBS’ The MillersCritical Response: Slightly Worse Than Meh
Ratings: Good. Debuted to 13 million, holding around 10 million.
On any other network, The Millers’ ratings would be considered a coup, but there are different standards over at CBS, especially with a lead-in from The Big Bang Theory. That being said, network executives were no doubt over the moon two weeks ago when TBBT offered up a re-run and The Millers only dipped to 9.67 million. In theory, that shows the new sitcom from Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope) has found its own audience probably because it’s very watchable.
Watchable sounds like a really negative adjective, but it’s actually not. All of Garcia’s shows have a nice ease about them. They’re a mix of clever premises and low brow subject matter, the combination of which produces a mix of astute societal observations and fart jokes. That’s why The Millers is a great show to fire up on the DVR when you’ve got a spare twenty minutes and want to have a few laughs. It’s not going to reinvent the wheel, but it will more than pass the time. Look for it to be doing much the same five years from now.
The CW’s The OriginalsCritical Response: A Little Better Than A Mixed Bag
Ratings: Holding steady around 2 million.
Just as The Millers needs to be judged a little more harshly based on its Big Bang Theory lead-in, The Originals has to be judged with less aggression because it’s on The CW, a network that offers up some shows that do less than a million viewers per episode. In that context, pulling between 1.92 and 2.24 million viewers every single episode has to be considered a big victory. Those ratings led to the network ordering three additional scripts, and sooner or later, it will lead to an entire second season being ordered, barring some unexpected ballooning of the budget.
Given the popularity of The Vampire Diaries, the numbers probably shouldn’t be considered a big shock, but the quality of the programming certainly should be. The Originals doesn’t even feel like a spin-off. In just a few short episodes, the creators have already put together a new location with a new set of characters that offers its own tone, pace and story arc, one that should keep everyone involved working for years to come.
Showtime’s Masters Of SexCritical Response: Excellent
Ratings: About 5 million viewers across all platforms.
The whole point of premium cable isn’t for viewers to watch any one specific show as much as it is for said viewer to watch enough content to continue paying the monthly fee. Because of that, it can be difficult to know exactly how popular certain programs are, but by all measurements, Masters Of Sex seems to be doing pretty damn well. It’s already been renewed for a second season, and the new episodes are apparently being watched by about 5.4 million viewers when you take into account all of the different airings. More importantly, that’s only about a million or so less than Homeland, which has had years to grow its audience.
Masters Of Sex is a straight ahead, refreshingly candid show about a subject that fascinates all of us. Because of the long and complicated relationship, both personally and professionally, between Dr. Masters and Virginia Johnson, there should be plenty of material for the writers to work with, and I highly doubt any of us will grow tired of seeing medical research performed on incredibly beautiful people. Besides, there’s a very good chance there could be some nods for the show come awards season, which any network loves.
Netflix’s Orange Is The New BlackCritical Response: Very Good
Ratings: Netflix has no interest in telling anyone. Ever.
Apart from Julianne Hough’s ill-advised blackface costume, it’s very hard to take away many negatives from Orange Is The New Black’s first season. The first week ratings were apparently better than House Of Cards and Arrested Development, which is a non-specific good thing, and the show was swiftly renewed for a second season. More importantly, the general operations of a prison provide the perfect structure to keep the show interesting over the long haul. Unpopular characters can be transferred. New women can be convicted of crimes and moved into the same unit, and of course, women could always be taken care of by other inmates.
That being said, for the show to continue, Piper will need to have years added to her sentence, or the time element will need to be greatly shrunk. Considering networks and assumedly, new Internet companies hate cancelling a popular thing, however, something tells me creator Jenji Kohan will be able to figure out a nice convenient work around.