Think back: Just three months ago, Fox’s mega-budget Terra Nova was considered the most formidable new drama, ABC’s Once Upon a Time seemed like it had an enchanted apple’s chance in hell of becoming a hit, and many thought Two and a Half Men might not survive without Charlie Sheen. How fast fortunes have changed (or, in the case of NBC, remained the same). Here are EW’s fall TV winners and losers:
WINNER: Smart, funny women / good girls gone bad. They may be broke, desperate or — worst of all — trapped in the suburbs, but the ladies of CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Fox’s New Girl, and ABC’s Suburgatory have three of the highest-rated new shows — and all were created or co-created by female writers. Meanwhile, the mercenary heroines on breakout dramas like ABC’s Revenge and Showtime’s Homeland have kept us on our best behavior.
WINNER: Chuck Lorre AND Charlie Sheen: Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre proved he can boost a hit comedy’s ratings by 41 percent — despite Ashton Kutcher not being all that funny. Meanwhile, former Men star Sheen convinced FX to buy 10 episodes of a sitcom based on the movie Anger Management — which critics didn’t think was very funny either. It’s like a bitter divorce where both spouses got to keep the boat.
WINNER: Fox. Along with surprise hit New Girl, Fox is on an excellent track to cinch its 8th straight season-topping victory for two reasons: An unexpectedly dramatic World Series and time-slot boosting performances by The X Factor which have helped put the network in first place earlier than usual this season (with American Idol yet to come). The worst that can be said for Fox is that Terra Nova is soft, but even that has been a solid self-starter on Monday nights.
WINNER: Boo! You can retire this unwritten industry rule: “Horror cannot succeed in prime time.” The return of AMC’s The Walking Dead delivered 9 million viewers and ranked as cable’s top-rated drama among young adults; while FX’s ghost-filled American Horror Story is FX’s most popular freshman drama ever with 4.2 million. Expect the number of eventual knockoffs to be downright spooky.
WINNER: Recastings: A ray of sunshine for NBC. While everybody has focused on Kutcher boosting Two and a Half Men, few have noticed NBC’s top-rated series The Office has largely survived losing star Steve Carell while adding James Spader. Granted, the show has slipped 22 percent in the ratings, but Community is down 27 percent without losing anybody.
WINNER: ABC. The Disney-owned network might have a fairy godmother. Insiders had low expectations for ABC’s fall, but Once Upon is TV’s highest-rated new drama, Suburgatory has snuggled right into Wednesday nights, and Happy Endings has grown into a solid companion for Modern Family. Plus, the network has another smart-funny-female contender for midseason with Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.