What Will the Logjam at 8PM on Thursday Mean for Your Favorite Show?
by Joel Keller, posted Jan 27th 2011 1:00PM
At least once or twice every year, there's a time slot with such a logjam of good shows that bloggers and fans wail and rend their garments, tortured by the prospect of picking two shows to watch and record out of three or more that air during simultaneously. "Why do networks put all the good shows against each other?" we cry.
With online options -- legal and otherwise -- readily available, this isn't as big a problem as it used to be. Still, it's annoying to have to plan out your watching to such a degree.
Mondays at 8PM have been a problem for some time, with 'How I Met Your Mother,' 'House,' 'Chuck' and 'Dancing With the Stars' making life difficult for the average TV viewer. Now, Thursdays at 8PM are becoming just as difficult: 'American Idol' has been thrown into the fray, competing with 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Community' and (don't laugh) 'Wipeout.'
But even with the presence of the fading but still dominant 'Idol' in the mix, it seems like this battle won't be as bloody as the one on Mondays, and for a very good reason: People aren't going to tune out their favorite Thursday show in favor of something else.
There doesn't seem to be a ton of audience overlap among the four shows, does there? People who have been getting all tingly waiting for 'Idol' to return might be fans of 'Community' or 'BBT,' but it's just as likely that they're not. And people who tune into 'Wipeout' just want a funny diversion at the end of the day that doesn't require much concentration.
All the shows have their dedicated fans, which is why 'Community' has been able to hold its own against 'BBT,' even picking up audience as the dedicated fans spread the word. And this core of fans aren't going to turn to 'Idol' no matter how many teenagers Steven Tyler hits on.
The numbers from last week's first big throwdown bear this out. According to the overnight results at TVByTheNumbers.com, 'Community' had its second-best week in the 18–49 demo, and 'BBT' was down only 5 percent from its last new episode. 'Wipeout' slid 28 percent but still had an over-2 rating in the 18–49 group; if any show would have gotten obliterated by 'Idol,' that would have been it.
'Idol,' on the other hand, was down 23 percent compared to its second episode last season, which aired on a Wednesday. The competition on Thursday could be a factor, but it might just be what everyone has been suspecting: that 'Idol' is starting to show its age and that Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are not going to make up for the departure of Simon Cowell.
It's hard to say, because 'Idol' will be in its audition rounds for the next few weeks. While those always give us good moments -- William Hung, 'Pants on the Ground,' etc. -- the real ratings punch comes during the performance round, especially as the final 12 get whittled down. People who aren't curious about the show now may get more curious as the stories of the performers become as prominent as who's doing the judging. At least that's what the 'Idol' producers hope will happen.
However, it's entirely possible that, as 'Idol's' numbers get bigger as it hurtles toward its finale, the numbers of the other shows will hold steady. The added viewers will likely come from the vast section of the audience that's not watching network TV during the time period, the ones who are online, watching their DVRs, or viewing something on cable. As the buzz around 'Idol' grows, more of those people will tune in.
The other thing to keep in mind is that during the performance rounds, Thursday will be the results show. After nine seasons, 'Idol' viewers know what's those episodes are all about: Five minutes of results, 55 minutes of filler. If anything, the show's rating might go up in its second half-hour as people tune in to see who's going home, meaning that 'Perfect Couples' and '$#*! My Dad Says,' shows already on shaky ratings and critical ground, will get walloped.
So, even though this feels like a logjam, it's not as big a logjam as you might think. After all, you can always watch 'Wipeout' during lunchtime at the office, right?
Tell us: Will the addition of 'Idol' affect what you watch on Thursdays at 8?
Follow @joelkeller on Twitter and on Facebook.