Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it’s looking like ABC and NBC may have made a tactical error by delaying the return of serialized shows like Heroes (pictured) and Pushing Daisies until this season. You remember why they did it, right? After the 100-day strike was resolved in March, ABC and NBC chose to table freshman series like Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money, and Chuck and re-launch with the rest of the 2008-09 fall lineup. But it’s been almost a year since those shows last aired in prime-time, and they’re now getting the (low) ratings to show for it. On ABC, Practice, the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, was down 44 percent in viewers Oct. 1 versus its September 2007 debut (14.4 million vs. 8 million), Daisies was down a whopping 52 percent (6.3 million versus 13 million) compared to its series premiere, and Money was down 32 percent (7.1 million versus 10.4 million). The news was just as bad for NBC: Life was down 47 percent (from 18.8 million to 10 million), and Chuck lost 31 percent (6.8 million versus 9.8 million). And not even the sight of a shirtless Mohinder Suresh could stop the bleeding on Heroes, which is already down 41 percent this season (from 16.9 million to 10 million).
Not everybody is singing a sad tune right now, however. Unlike the competition, CBS fired up its regular schedule right after the strike and regained the momentum it lost during the labor dispute. As a result, most of its veteran shows have posted double-digit gains in viewers since returning for the new season: Criminal Minds is up 34 percent, NCIS is up 29 percent, and How I Met Your Mother is up 14 percent.
“Holding back the shows after the strike has certainly has not proven to be the best decision,” concedes Bill Carroll, director of programming for the Katz TV Group. “We are creatures of habit, and when we no longer have the opportunity to watch our favorite show or our new favorite shows, we move on. At this point, viewers have not returned.”