Friday Night Dead Zone: Where Nerds Keep Shows Alive

by | December 9, 2011 at 4:48 PM | TV News

By Tim Molloy
Friday night remains a ratings dead zone, where shows go to either die or compete, “Hunger Games” style, in a final, desperate bid for survival.

Once in a while, a show can surprise there, as NBC’s “Grimm” has done this season. But survival demands that shows find favor with the lords of this land, who — can we be honest? — tend to be nerds. Or have some nerdish tendencies. (Your humble correspondent says this as someone who owns many, many boxes of comics and played oboe in junior high.)

In TheWrap’s look at this season’s biggest ratings gainers and losers, four of the 10 shows that have posted the biggest losses did so after a move to Friday — and one, CW’s “Supernatural,” was already there. We compared ratings for this season through the week of Nov. 13, compared to the same period last year.

No show on television has slid more than “Chuck,” which is down 55 percent as it serves out its final season in the dead zone.

The slides are no surprise. Because Friday night draws so few viewers, it has become a place for shows that skew older, or for sci-fi and fantasy tinged shows whose fans would follow them to hell.

Or even Fridays.

Watch “Grimm:”

Shows like “Supernatural,” “Chuck,” and Fox’s “Fringe” might not be able to survive elsewhere. But they are a gift to TV executives on Friday nights, because they offer small but die-hard followings on a night when little is guaranteed.

“You’re not going to give Friday the weight you might give other nights on your schedule, so it’s always good if you use shows that have built-in audiences,” said Preston Beckman, Fox’s executive vice president of strategic program planning and research. “We’re not going to go dark, so you’ve got to put something on. Better to put on something that has a built-in audience.”

Beckman, let it be noted, did not once use the word “nerds.”

Only one new show has debuted strong on Friday nights this season — and would you believe one of its lead characters is a wolf? “Grimm” has averaged a 1.8 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic — a low number any other weeknight, but an impressive one for a Friday.

The show’s ratings were good enough to earn it its first Thursday tryout last night. It scored a low 1.6 rating that was nonetheless NBC’s best in the timeslot in 11 weeks.

If it makes a move to another weeknight, “Grimm” will be the rare show that not only survives on Friday, but escapes it. CBS tried moving its Friday night series “Blue Bloods” to Wednesday last season, but opted to keep it in place.

It proved to be a wise move: The show is one of only two that have posted gains on Fridays this season, gaining 5.6 percent in the demo. NBC’s “Dateline,” the only other show to gain on Friday, is up 7.1 percent.

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