Friday night death slot
The "Friday night death slot" is a perceived graveyard slot in American television. It implies that a television program in the United States scheduled on Friday evenings (typically, between 8:00 and 11:00 PM ET) is destined for cancellation.
The term possibly began as a reflection of certain shows' dominance of Friday night in the 1980s, which condemned to death any television show scheduled opposite those programs. Today it reflects the belief that Americans rarely watch TV on Friday or Saturday nights, as these days people (especially younger people) tend to leave home for other activities, thereby removing from the household the most lucrative demographics for advertisers.
Programs affected by the "death slot"
TGIF was a successful block for ABC which ran from 1987 to 2000; it focused primarily on family-friendly sitcoms. Following the slow collapse of TGIF in the late 1990s, Friday night has fallen into a lower priority for the network. The following are examples of television shows that started on Friday nights and lasted a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually canceled:
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1999-2000||Odd Man Out||First and only season.|
|1998-2000||The Hughleys||Second season, last one on ABC. Moved to UPN in late 2000.|
|2000-2001||Making the Band||First season, only one on ABC. Moved to MTV in 2001, which aired the show for 11 more seasons.|
|2002-2005||8 Simple Rules||Third and final season (2004). Series moved to this slot when ratings declined following the death of star John Ritter in the middle of the previous season.|
|2006-2010||Ugly Betty||Fourth and final season (2009). The series moved to this timeslot due to disappointing ratings from season three's Thursday timeslot. Moved to Wednesday nights partway through the season.|
|2003-2012||Extreme Makeover: Home Edition||The series ran on Sundays for eight seasons, but after declining ratings in the seventh and eighth seasons, it was moved to Friday nights for the ninth and final season.|
|2012-2013||Malibu Country||First and only season. Though its lead-in, Last Man Standing, was renewed for its third season, Malibu Country was cancelled.|
|2011-2013||Happy Endings||Third and final season. The final 10 episodes of the series moved to this timeslot in March, 2013, due to disappointing ratings on Tuesdays paired with Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, having previously lost Modern Family as its season 2 lead-in.|
The following are all examples of Fox shows that either started on Friday nights and lasted only a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually canceled.
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1993-1994||The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||First and only season.|
|2000||FreakyLinks||Cancelled midway through its first and only season|
|2000-2002||Dark Angel||Second and final season|
|2000-2004||Boston Public||Fourth and final season|
|2000-2006||Malcolm in the Middle||Seventh and final season|
|2001-2006||The Bernie Mac Show||Fifth and final season|
|2002–2003||Firefly||Cancelled during its first and only season, leaving three of its fourteen episodes unaired.|
|2002-2003||Fastlane||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2003||Wanda at Large||Second and final season|
|2005-2009||Prison Break||Moved to Friday midway through its fourth and final season|
|2006||Vanished||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2006||Justice||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2006-2007||Standoff||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2007||The Wedding Bells|
|2008||The Return of Jezebel James|
|2008||Canterbury's Law||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2007-2009||Don't Forget the Lyrics||Third season, last one on Fox. Moved to MyNetworkTV and syndication outlets with a new format in 2010.|
|2009||Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles||Moved to Friday midway through its second and final season.|
|2009||'Til Death||Received a fourth season order primarily to gain enough episodes for syndication, and was moved to Fridays for the early part of the season.|
|2010||The Good Guys||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2012||The Finder||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2012-2013||Touch||Second and final season|
In January 2011, the sci-fi drama Fringe, then in its third season, was moved into this slot from Thursdays. According to Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, nearly half of Fringe's viewership time shifts the show to watch at their convenience, and that "if it does anywhere near what it did on Thursdays, we can glue that show to the schedule because it can be a big win for us". The Fox network created a promotion advertisement for Fringe that lampooned its reputation of the Friday night death slot prior to Fringe's move. Despite encountering lower ratings after its move, Fringe was renewed for a fourth season, and later for a shortened final fifth season to allow the creators to complete the story arc they had set out at the start of the program as well as to reach one hundred episodes allowing the show to be resold in syndication. Critics praised Fox for taking the risk and profit lost on the show to satisfy the creators' desires and fans' requests to complete the show's primary story. The series finale aired on January 18, 2013.
After twenty years of unsuccessfully finding programming to fill the Friday night death slot, Fox gave up, leaving a one-hour empty hole in the 9:00 (Eastern Time) hour of their 2013-14 schedule. Encores of Fox programming from the previous week will air in that time slot. However in Late-Fall, comedy Raising Hope which will be airing its fourth season and new comedy, Enlisted will premiere in the 9pm slot, hoping to revitalize Fox's Friday ratings.
The second season of Star Trek aired on Fridays from 8:30–9:30 pm in the Eastern Time Zone. Though NBC discussed plans to move it to a 7:30–8:30 pm slot on Mondays in the mid-season schedule changes, that never occurred. After fans deluged NBC with a mail-in protest, producer Gene Roddenberry stated that he was promised the same 8:30–9:30 time slot for Season 3, but on Monday instead of Friday. However, that would have meant Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In had to start a half-hour later (moving from 9:00 to 9:30). Laugh-In producer George Schlatter saw no reason why his show, which was a ratings smash at the time, had to yield its slot to the poorly rated Star Trek, and he made no secret of his displeasure. Star Trek instead remained on Fridays, in the even less desirable 10:00 PM time slot.
In an effort to revive Friday night television in the 1990s, and to compete with ABC's successful TGIF block of family comedies airing opposite it, CBS first attempted to compete with ABC launching a comedy night in the fall of 1992 with The Golden Palace (a spin-off/continuation of NBC's The Golden Girls), Major Dad and Designing Women, along with a new sitcom from Bob Newhart, Bob. The Golden Girls had been a top-10 hit on Saturday nights for NBC (though it had fallen to 30th in its final season), while Major Dad and Designing Women had also been top-10 hits on Monday nights, and Newhart's previous sitcom, Newhart, had spent most of its run in the top 30. Nevertheless, this effort failed, and only Bob was renewed for the 1993–1994 season, only to end in December 1993. A later effort to counterprogram TGIF, the CBS Block Party, met a similar fate in 1997.
In general, however, CBS has found ways, particularly in the years following the cancellation of the Block Party, to be at least somewhat more successful in the Friday night time slots than its broadcast competitors.
UPN/The CW's WWE Friday Night SmackDown!, originally named SmackDown!, was first broadcast on UPN on Thursdays to compete with WCW Thunder (eventually forcing Thunder to Wednesdays because of high ratings, before a majority of the assets belonging to WCW was ultimately purchased by Vince McMahon in 2001). UPN moved the show to Friday nights in the United States on September 9, 2005, because of low ratings in its original Thursday night slot, and the show retained its Friday night time slot after moving to The CW. Upon its move to the "death slot," UPN/The CW Friday nights saw a substantial increase in ratings over UPN's movies and most of The WB's sitcoms. SmackDown! had also initially garnered even better ratings in the death slot than the ratings on its former Thursday night airings (after the merging of WCW with WWE in 2001). Despite this, The CW chose not to renew SmackDown's contract in 2008 due to the change of the demographic of the network's viewers, and the show moved to MyNetworkTV that fall, eventually leaving network television altogether with a move to SyFy in 2010. UPN also moved Star Trek: Enterprise to Friday nights at the start of its fourth and final season in 2004. The show was pre-empted many times that season and suffered very low ratings with many fans choosing to watch the weekend replays instead.
- Katherine Phillips. "Witty sitcoms scheduled in Friday night death slot," Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 28, 1986, page 46: "ABC is sending two of this season's brightest new sitcoms to certain death at the hands of J.R. Ewing and his Dallas clan."
- John Voorhees. "ABC reshuffles schedule for ratings but deals only two new shows," The Seattle Times, December 13, 1985, page C5: "Also being dropped is Our Family Honor, the ABC series that has had the distinction of being the lowest-rated Nielsen show almost every week since its debut. It is in the Friday night death slot of 10 pm, against Miami Vice and Falcon Crest.'
- Knight-Ridder News Service. 'Family Honor' ditched for 'Spenser', Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), October 19, 1985, page C6: "Spenser: For Hire, the above-par detective series starring Robert Urich, is being moved out of the Friday-night death slot opposite Miami Vice and Falcon Crest. ... To make room for "Spenser," ABC is taking "Our Family Honor" off the air [Tuesdays], at least for a while and perhaps permanently.
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