Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Network hopping

BROOKLYN 99 is moving from Fox to NBC. LAST MAN STANDING is moving from ABC to Fox. Does that strategy generally work?

Yes and mostly no.

A few of the “yeses”: JAG moved from NBC to CBS and not only became a huge hit, but spawned all the NCIS hits. And BAYWATCH departed NBC to first-run syndication and became a worldwide hit. (Who knew that people in other countries would want to watch hot babes in tiny bikinis?) And going way back to the ‘50s, MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY starring Danny Thomas was on ABC for the first four years and CBS the last seven (changing its name to THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW) where its ratings soared. And LEAVE IT TO BEAVER started on CBS but enjoyed more success on ABC.

Also AMERICAN IDOL moving from Fox to ABC although the numbers it gets now are not even close to the numbers they got during their heyday. Bring back Sanjaya!

But most fail.

BACHELOR FATHER in the ‘60s was on all three networks and didn’t make a dent. And if you want to go way way back, TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET didn’t click on either CBS, NBC, ABC, or Dumont. TAXI moved from ABC to NBC and was gone a year later. THE NAKED TRUTH fared no better on NBC than ABC. Moving to ABC from NBC did not jump-start SCRUBS. And there are many more examples.

Back in the late ‘70s when MTM was considered the Camelot of TV studios, they had THE TONY RANDALL SHOW on ABC. After getting only a 30 share (boy, those were the days) it was actually on the bubble. ABC offered a second season but only 13 episodes. MTM President Grant Tinker took the show to CBS where they offered a full-season. So Grant took it. A year later CBS cancelled THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. Grant later said he made a mistake moving it from ABC. That was where its audience was, he should have had enough faith that they would ultimately get their back 9 and possibly pave the way for future seasons. Moving shows is a big risk.

Now obviously shows that were cancelled and get a reprieve from another network don’t give a shit about the risks. They’re now playing with house money. But the networks tend to take the loss.

So why do networks do it? In most cases it’s because they own the particular show and want to protect their investment. 20th Century Fox owns LAST MAN STANDING. NBC’s parent company owns BROOKLYN 99. If BROOKLYN 99 were owned by Sony there’s no way in hell it would pop up on NBC (despite all the fan love). So let’s be clear, even if BROOKLYN 99 doesn’t get great ratings, NBC is stockpiling more episodes for later syndication and to sell to SVOD networks. And who knows? Maybe it will catch on at its new home. For NBC it’s a win-win.

I’m also guessing NBC’s comedy development wasn’t all that hot. It’s not like a truly great pilot was passed over for a series the number four network didn't want anymore.  

So you might see more of this. It’s no longer about winning in network television. It’s about making money any way you can. Too bad Fox wasn’t around when TOM CORBETT was on the air. That show could’ve landed there too.

41 comments :

VP81955 said...

"The Naked Truth" died in its second season because NBC put it in its '90s sitcom sausage machine (among its comedies, only "Seinfeld" and "Frasier" avoided its clutches) and took everything out of what made it so appealingly subversive in season 1 on ABC. It became so formulaic I stopped watching. The lady in my avatar likes Tea Leoni as a comic actress, but considers the shift to NBC Tea's equivalent of her own "Fools For Scandal." (Visit IMDb to understand what she's talking about.)

A few other switched series: "Get Smart" and "I Dream Of Jeannie" (both from NBC to CBS in 1969-70) and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (after four seasons on ABC, it moved to the WB for its final three).

Bill O said...

Danny Thomas' was a unique case. Widowed in year four, audiences loved his new wife on his new network.

Unlike Leah Remini's faux wife on Kevin Can Wait.

Danny DeVito did an hysterical tv movie motivated by NBC's Taxi cancellation - The Ratings Game.

John said...

Not to nitpick, but didn't Scrubs go from NBC to ABC, not the other way around (like you have in your post)?

Craig Gustafson said...

"Get Smart" spent four years on NBC before moving to CBS - where it lasted one year.

Handsome Dan said...

Hi Ken-
I have a question about upfronts. I get where they're a big deal if you're a new show or a show that's on the bubble, but what if you're on a show that's doing well or at least good enough? Do you care at all? It seems like some networks send out their stars for some facetime with advertisers, but do the writers and producers care at all about the upfront stuff?

Jake Mabe said...

That's an interesting phenomenon. One of my all-time favorite shows, "The Paper Chase," was a critical but not a ratings hit on CBS, became both during PBS reruns, and returned on the then new-ish Showtime cable network for three more seasons.

"Father Knows Best" was canceled after one year on CBS, moved to NBC, finally cracked the top 25 after a couple of years, then attracted its biggest audience in its history after moving back to CBS for its final few years.

Then we can talk about those wonders that became huge hits in syndication when the networks pulled the plug: "The Lawrence Welk Show," "Hee Haw," and "Mama's Family."

And seems like "Davis Rules" -- which I recall liking, but haven't seen in almost 30 years -- switched networks, in some order between ABC and CBS, but was soon cancelled.

Jon H said...

HAZEL also spent 4 seasons on NBC before moving to CBS for 1 final season.

VP81955 said...

CBS just announced its schedule, cutting back its comedies from eight to six for the start of the season.

The big surprise to me is that while "Mom" and "Murphy Brown" are linked, it's on Thursdays, not Mondays. "Mom" remains at 9, the revived "Murphy" at 9:30. (Many, including myself, expected "Murphy" to return to its 9 Monday legacy slot, with "Mom" following.) "TBBT" and "Young Sheldon" remain to open Thursdays.

Monday's new slate is a shocker. The revived "Magnum PI" will air at 9, before "Bull" (which moved from Tuesdays). At 8, CBS will air "The Neighborhood," followed by another black-oriented sitcom, "Happy Together" (the Wayans show). Not sure if this mix will work. The renewed "Life in Pieces" and "Man with a Plan"? Midseason replacements.

CBS must have little faith in its comedy roster...or producers of police procedurals simply wield too much influence.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Oh, so that's why Chelsea Peretti stopped appearing on WORLD'S DUMBEST... on truTV.

Michael said...

"My Three Sons" was on ABC for 5 seasons, then moved to CBS for 7 more after ABC would not pay to film episodes in color.

Chris said...

Just wondering about your thoughts re: Jimmy Kimmel's remarks about his network during the up-fronts. I thought they were pretty funny but also quite negative. I'm reminded of that great line John Patrick Shanley gave to Olympia Dukakis' character at dinner with John Mahoney's character in "Moonstruck": Don't shit where you eat. In your experience is this typical of the humor at these events?

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

It happened in animation as well. THE CRITIC had a 13 episode first season on ABC before being cancelled (which was created by Simpsons alumni). It was owned by Sony, but producer Jim Brooks was able to move it to Fox, which resulted in THE SIMPSONS doing a Critic crossover event. The Critic only got a 10 episode second season and was ultimately cancelled.

FUTURAMA fared better. Years after being canned by Fox, the sales of the made for DVD movies generated enough interested for it to be revived on Comedy Central. It got 52 extra episodes, and would also get a Simpsons crossover down the line.

71dude said...

"The Hogan Family" (aka "The Show That Followed ALF") switched from NBC to CBS (when they tried to get in business with Miller-Boyett) and lasted half a season. It never did well in syndication either. Similarly, "Family Matters" and "Step by Step" went from ABC to CBS and died as well.

They had another one with Telma Hopkins that died on two networks.

cd1515 said...

Seems like back in the day viewers were actually fans of certain networks and cared what network a show was on.
Is that really true today?
I’ve been binge-watching a show on Netflix and have no idea what network it’s really on.
To me, it’s on Netflix.

gottacook said...

Although Get Smart did move from NBC to CBS for 1969-70, I Dream of Jeannie remained on NBC for its final season the same year - I watched the last two or three seasons of both.

I'm not sure why, but (unlike other network-switchers such as Taxi) Get Smart was markedly less funny once it was on CBS. Siegfried (Bernie Kopell) didn't appear any longer, and way too much time was given to agent Larrabee, who never had anything funny to say or do.

Lily Garland said...

VP81955 -

Your comments are invariably worth reading, but please stop with the off-topic and disrespectful references to 1930s movie star (and 1940s plane crash fatality) Carole Lombard as "the lady in my avatar."

tavm said...

The Lynda Carter-starred "Wonder Woman" originally aired on ABC in the mid-'70s to, I'm guessing, pretty good ratings but was cancelled by that network after the second season reportedly because they didn't want to pay much more for retaining the '40s period flavor. Neither, I'm guessing, did CBS which picked it up on condition it set the show in the present day resulting in Lyle Waggoner's character playing Steve Trevor's son instead of Trevor himself meaning he and WW can no longer share kissing scenes...

Andrew said...

Carole Lombard's dead?!

MikeN said...

JAG should have been an NBC show. The style just fit, like The Blacklist. If it would have led to NCIS being on NBC, that would have changed the network entirely.

Brian said...

VP81955 - Where is your source for I Dream of Jeannie switching to CBS for ts final season? Everything out there says it was NBC for its entire run, as were the two TV reunion movies.

I'm Outraged! said...

Lily Garland, from what I have read about Carole Lombard, she would probably tell you not to be so effing ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia “You Bet Your Life” entry excerpt: “The show debuted on ABC Radio on October 27, 1947, then moved to CBS Radio debuting October 5, 1949, before making the transition to NBC-TV and NBC Radio on October 4, 1950. Because of its simple format, it was possible to broadcast the show simultaneously on radio and television. The last episode in its radio format aired on June 10, 1960. On television, however, the series continued for another year, debuting in its final season on September 22, 1960, and with a new title, The Groucho Show.”

VP81955 said...

My mistake.

VP81955 said...

I like to think I'm among the last people who would be disrespectful of Carole Lombard. I have run the classic Hollywood site "Carole & Co." (https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/) for 11 years as of next month. I have assisted in all sorts of Lombard research on behalf of authors such as Michelle Morgan ("Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century Star") and others. She's my favorite classic-era actress -- and from your name here (the character she played in her pivotal film, "Twentieth Century"), I can tell you're a Lombard lover too.

As for "Fools For Scandal," Carole made it in early 1938, when she was the hottest actress in the industry -- but it was made at Warners, a studio with absolutely no feel for screwball, and was a box-office disappointment. Lombard said she should've known it was a flop when people complimented on what she wore in the film rather than how she acted. As a result, Carole switched to drama for a few years before returning to comedy in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (1941).

D McEwan said...

Jack Benny switched networks, but he only ran for another couple decades.

Anonymous said...

Surprised no one mentioned the most famous network switch.
Jack Benny's popular radio program went from NBC to CBS in the infamous William Paley raid on NBC.
His television show on CBS started soon after that and ran for more than a decade until it switched back to NBC at the end of the run.

Anonymous said...

Get Smart had to keep Larabee around for two reasons:

- Robert Karvelas, who played the part, was Don Adams's cousin (and longtime gofer).

- Larabee ultimately became the only character on the show who was dumber than Max.

VP81955 said...

Many sponsored radio series switched networks. "Lux Radio Theater" began in 1934 on NBC from New York. It struggled in its first two seasons, but Lux -- whose print advertising used film stars -- took advantage of cheaper transcontinental landline costs to move the series to Los Angeles, with the slogan "Lux Presents Hollywood!" CBS put it in a 9 p.m. ET Monday slot (with a later West Coast broadcast) and it debuted June 1, 1936 with Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich in an adaptation of "Morocco" titled "The Legionnaire and the Lady." Within weeks, "Lux" became a huge hit, and for the next dozen years was among the top-rated programs on radio. The rise of TV impacted its popularity, and the show returned to NBC for its final few seasons before expiring in 1955.

James T. Picard said...

Let us not forget STAR TREK! From NBC to syndication to CBS.

Earle said...

Back in the days when a single sponsor carried an entire series, the sponsor could be responsible for network hopping. For example, the Gale Storm-Charles Farrell series MY LITTLE MARGIE originally aired on CBS from June to September 1952 as a summer replacement for I LOVE LUCY. Sponsor Philip Morris Cigarettes was pleased with the show's performance and wanted to continue it. CBS had no slot available in its fall 1952 schedule, though. Philip Morris felt it was important to keep MARGIE on the air and not have it go on hiatus until a slot opened up. Given its short summer run, they were afraid audiences would forget about it, so they made arrangements for MY LITTLE MARGIE to move temporarily to NBC, where it would air until a time slot opened up on CBS. This NBC run was from October to December 1952. By January 1953, a slot had opened up on CBS and Philip Morris moved MARGIE back there. MARGIE stayed on CBS until 1954, when Philip Morris dropped sponsorship and the show was picked up by Scott (the paper towel people). Scott had a half-hour weekly slot on NBC to fill, so for the 1954-55 season (its last), MARGIE moved back to NBC.

Janet Ybarra said...

Another example of network hopping: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It jumped from The WB to UPN. The quality of the series started to suffer, although that might have happened if it remained on The WB. The biggest effect was there was there was to be no more crossovers with sister show Angel, which remained on The WB.

VP81955 said...

"My Little Margie" is the topic of one of Robert Klein's more memorable comic bits, from his terrific album "Child of the '50s." He described her as "the first television heroine on speed," saying her character "had the metabolism of a hummingbird."

Janet Ybarra said...

The example of STAR TREK is a little apples and oranges as the switch occurred not with a single series, over the course of decades and the current series isn't even on CBS, per session, but on a SVOD service branded by CBS.

Donald Benson said...

In my late-boomer lifetime a network change was often a last gasp. Red Skelton's CBS variety hour jumped to NBC ... and became a half-hour stripped of song and dance. "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", by contemporary lights a "sophisticated" sitcom, moved from NBC to ABC with cranked-up slapstick. And of course "Get Smart", which had married its leads (a classic last gasp ratings play) jumped to CBS where Max and 99 had twins (another classic last gasp ratings play). Adam West said somewhere that NBC was interested in picking up "Batman", but the Batcave and other standing sets had already been bulldozed and the cost of rebuilding soured the deal.

Disney's Sunday hour moved from NBC to CBS (ironically, since it was CBS's "60 Minutes" that finally unseated the aging hit) and thereafter would occasionally be revived in one form or another, finally becoming irrelevant. The format itself was rendered obsolete, with whole channels -- some owned by Disney -- devoted to material that once aired ONLY during that weekly hour.

A question: Back in the day, did networks have the power to make a cancelled show STAY cancelled? I know there were often contracts to keep specific performers and creators from taking their talents elsewhere, but could a network exec ban a "Get Smart" from moving after cancellation, lest its survival elsewhere make him look bad?

Greg Ehrbar said...

Disney's anthology is often referred to a Sunday show because it became such a staple of that night, but it actually began on Wednesday nights on ABC. The very first Disney show of all, "One Hour in Wonderland," was aired on Christmas Day, 1950 on CBS.

Walt Disney moved to NBC in 1961 for several reasons, one of being the use of color on NBC, which at the time was owned by RCA. The network's mega-hit "Bonanza" was responsible for selling millions of TV sets. It was no accident that the 1961 show was renamed "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" and that the first episode was "Adventures in Color".

Cartoons moved around to different networks too. Fred Silverman was instrumental in working with Hanna-Barbera to get "Scooby-Doo" on the air with he was with CBS in 1969. It was a huge success, with a few new episodes made in 1970 before the hour-long "Scooby-Doo Movies" series replaced it in 1972. When Silverman moved to ABC, he took Scooby-Doo with him, and new episodes aired in 1976 along with "Laff-a-Lympics." It was Silverman who came up with the name, apparently from Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" (though I always thought that was "Dooby-Dooby-Doo").

Donald Benson said...

Didn't the Warner cartoons -- the ones still owned by Warner -- move around as well? Besides "The Bugs Bunny Show" there were shows headlined by the Road Runner and Porky Pig, and I assume they all ultimately drew on the same vault. Now wondering if there was any "exclusivity" to prevent overlap when more than one series was on the air.

Mike Doran said...

I wrote this somewhere else before ...

Frank Sinatra hated "Strangers In The Night" when he first heard it - so much so that he decided to tank the recording.

Frank snarls his way through what's supposed to be a romantic ballad - and then for a finish, he adlibs a scat (Dooby-dooby-doo) for the fade-out.

It was just a joke, really - Frank's way of thumbing his nose at the whole thing - and I'm supposing he figured that the scat would be edited out, so no harm done.

... except that it was left in (by somebody ...) ...

... and every DJ who played the single picked up on "Dooby-dooby-doo" ...

... and Frank Sinatra soon had the biggest hit record in his career up to that time ...

I think this is what they call "karma".


By the way, I'm the "Anonymous" who wrote the "Larabee" comment above.
I had to replace my laptop a week or so ago, and the Google people are messing with my account (I hope they straighten it out soon, but I'm not holding my breath ...)

Andy Rose said...

@Donald Benson: There were a few different packages of old Warner Brothers cartoons available over the years, owing partially to the fact that WB sold the TV rights to all of their films made prior to August 1948 to another company called Associated Artists Productions. The AAP-syndicated cartoons are the ones you would see on local TV kiddie shows, especially after some of the copyrights lapsed.

Warners sold the 3 different network packages you mentioned, but they got bounced around quite a bit between ABC and CBS in different combinations over the years. Because of the earlier sale to AAP, WB couldn't include classics from Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin. The Saturday morning shows were nearly all cartoons directed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, or Robert McKimson.

David G. said...

Ah, good: All of these posts and nobody brought up this one yet: "Bionic Woman", somehow got cancelled after just 2 seasons by ABC (which included an Emmy win for Lindsay Wagner), then did the slow-motion leap over to NBC for its final year (which put an end to any further Steve Austin/Jaime Sommers crossovers). I think Richard Anderson (who, according to last fall's Emmy "In Memoriam" segment, didn't actually die last year) still remains the only actor to regularly play the same character at the same time on two different networks.

cadavra said...

In the old days, single-cam comedies were treated as if they were multi-cams; i.e., packed with jokes and gags. Think GET SMART, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, McHALE'S NAVY, etc. You are correct; the problem isn't the format, it's the writers' intentions.

Incidentally, I may have mentioned this before, but WAGON TRAIN and THE JOEY BISHOP SHOW are the only two network series that not only switched networks but went from B&W to color and then back again. Watching the reruns of Bishop's show, it's fascinating how it kept getting reinvented, but the driving force behind the fabulous Seasons 2 and 3 (multi-cam and in color) was director James V. Kern, who clearly decided to let everyone go nuts, with constant ad-libbing and breaking up, as if it were a live variety show. When it moved to CBS for #4, he left, and the network put a stop to all that and tried to turn it into a pale imitation of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. There were still great moments here and there, but the magic was gone and one could easily tell the actors were no longer having much fun. It didn't survive to February.

Andy Rose said...

@David G.: That may be true for television, but Phil Harris played a fictionalized version of himself on both the Jack Benny radio program and his own program that aired immediately afterward. When Benny jumped from NBC to CBS in 1949, Harris decided to keep his program on NBC. Both shows remained in their same time slots and aired live, but fortunately the networks' radio facilities were only two blocks away from each other in Hollywood. So Harris had to duck out of the Benny program early every Sunday night and be driven a few hundred feet down Sunset Boulevard in time to be on his own show.