Friday night death slot

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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 p.m. ET) is destined for cancellation.

The term possibly began as a reflection of certain shows' dominance of Friday night in the 1980s and 1990s, which condemned to death any television show scheduled opposite those programs.[1][2][3] Today, it reflects the belief that Americans rarely watch television on Friday or Saturday nights, as these days people (especially younger single adults with energy and disposable income to expend on socializing) tend to leave home for other activities, thereby removing from the household the most lucrative demographic for advertisers.[4][5]

Programs affected by the "death slot"[edit]

ABC[edit]

TGIF was a successful block for ABC, which ran from 1989 to 2000 (although the network had been running a sitcom block on Fridays beginning in 1987); 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 to air on ABC. The series moved to UPN in September of 2000.
2000–2001 Making the Band First season, only one broadcast on ABC. The series moved to MTV in 2001, which aired the show for 11 more seasons.
2002–2005 8 Simple Rules Third and final season (2004). The series moved to this slot when ratings declined following the death of star John Ritter early in the previous season.
2006–2010 Ugly Betty Fourth and final season (2009). The series moved to this timeslot due to disappointing ratings during season three in its previous Thursday timeslot. It 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 during 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 canceled.
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 when it was paired with Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, having previously lost Modern Family as its season two lead-in.
2012-2014 The Neighbors Second and only season. Though its lead-in, Last Man Standing, will be renewed for its fourth season, The Neighbors was canceled.

Fox[edit]

Perhaps the network which has received the most attention, and has become the most well known for the "Friday Night Death Slot" has been Fox.[6]

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, suffered from dismal ratings, and were eventually canceled.

Years aired Series Seasons lasted before cancellation
1993–1994 The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.[7] First and only season.
1994 M.A.N.T.I.S.
1995 VR.5
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[8] Canceled 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
2002–2003 John Doe
2003 Wanda at Large Second and final season
2003 Miss Match Cancelled during its first and only season, airing only 11 of its 18 episodes in the U.S.
2004 Wonderfalls[8][9]
2005 Jonny Zero
2005 Killer Instinct
2005–2009 Prison Break Moved to Friday midway through its fourth and final season
2006 Vanished[10] 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[11]
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 to air 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 Brothers
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.
2009–2010 Dollhouse
2010 The Good Guys Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2010–2014 Raising Hope Fourth and final season
2012 The Finder[12] Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.
2012–2013 Touch Second and final season
2014 Rake Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.[13]

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".[14] The Fox network created a promotional advertisement for Fringe that lampooned its reputation of the Friday night death slot prior to Fringe's move.[15][16] Despite encountering lower ratings after its move, Fringe was renewed for a fourth season,[17] 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 100 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.[18] The series finale aired on January 18, 2013.

After 20 years of unsuccessfully finding programming to fill the Friday night death slot, Fox gave up, leaving a one-hour empty hole on that night in the 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) hour for the 2013-14 schedule. Encores of Fox programming from the previous week originally aired in that timeslot. However in November 2012, in the hopes of revitalizing Fox's Friday ratings, the sitcom Raising Hope moved from Tuesdays to Fridays for its fourth season, airing in the 9 p.m. half-hour; the freshman sitcom, Enlisted premiered in the 9:30 p.m. slot before both series swapped timeslots in late January.

NBC[edit]

One of the earliest and most famous examples of the "Friday Night Death Slot" phenomenon started with the original Star Trek on NBC.[19]

The second season of Star Trek aired on Fridays from 8:30–9:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Though NBC discussed plans to move it to a 7:30–8:30 p.m. slot on Mondays for mid-season, 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 airing 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.[20] Star Trek instead remained on Fridays, moving to the even less desirable 10:00 p.m. timeslot. Lamented Roddenberry, "If the network wants to kill us, it couldn't make a better move."[19]

CBS[edit]

CBS was the most successful network on Friday nights in the 1980s due to their hit shows Dallas and Falcon Crest, but both shows were struggling by the end of the decade and were cancelled in the early 1990s. 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.[citation needed] 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.[21] A later effort to counterprogram TGIF, the CBS Block Party (which included former TGIF series Family Matters and Step by Step, both of which were hits for several years while on ABC before both shows were canceled in 1997), met a similar fate in the fall of 1997.[22]

In 2013, CBS moved Vegas to Friday nights to make room for Golden Boy, another cop drama. Both shows were eventually canceled during their first year.

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.[23][24]

Other networks[edit]

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 for SmackDown!, before a majority of the assets belonging to WCW were 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 in September 2006. 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 merger 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 (shifting more towards women 12-34 years of age), and the show moved to MyNetworkTV that fall,[25] 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.

A general exception to the "Death Slot" is in regards to children's television. Disney Channel and Cartoon Network have long experienced success on Friday nights with their respective children's program blocks. Cartoon Network's success on this night began in 1999 with the launch of "Cartoon Cartoon Fridays", a two-hour block of original animated series during primetime that included hit series such as The Powerpuff Girls, Cow & Chicken and Johnny Bravo. After the block was discontinued in the late 2000s, Cartoon Network shifted its programming towards more action-oriented series such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Ben 10 in the Friday primetime slot. Disney Channel did not begin airing original programming on Friday evenings until 2001; premieres of its made-for-cable films moved to that night from Saturdays that year. This was followed by its original series in 2007 (which had aired during the two hours preceding the designated "Death Slot" period); since then, Disney Channel has been successful with its original programming on that night (which have included popular series such as Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Jessie and The Suite Life on Deck – the latter of which was the number one series among children between ages of 6- and 12-years-old in 2008[26]). Its original movies have also generally performed well on Friday nights; in particular, the August 17, 2007 premiere of High School Musical 2 was the channel's highest-rated made-for-cable film to date, and holds the Nielsen record for the highest-rated made-for-cable movie premiere and the highest-rated non-sports program in the history of basic cable, it was watched by 17.2 million viewers.[27]

Exceptions[edit]

Despite its reputation, Friday night prime time has also seen numerous successful series run for multiple years. ABC, for example, branded the evening TGIF and, for many years, scheduled a number of long-running sitcoms that evening, such as Perfect Strangers, Full House, Family Matters, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

More recently, the CBS fantasy series Ghost Whisperer enjoyed a successful five-season run on Friday nights.

Cartoon Network ran the "Cartoon Cartoon Fridays" block, where most of their new shows and episodes premiered, for five years. Avoiding the "Death Slot" entirely from 1999 to 2004.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ 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.'
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ News: Election 2006, The Austin Chronicle
  5. ^ Goodman, Tim (October 10, 2007). "Saturday night is dead, yes, but Friday, too?". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. E1. Retrieved February 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ The 20 Greatest Shows Cancelled by Fox Before their Time. Topless Robot: August 14, 2009
  7. ^ Weiner, Allison Hope (2001-01-12). "Silence of the Lam". Entertainment Weekly (577). 
  8. ^ a b Emily Nussbaum. "Same Night, Same Channel, Same Giant Bummer" (interview with Tim Minear on the demise of Angel, Firefly, and Wonderfalls, The New York Times, April 18, 2004, page 25, column 1.
  9. ^ Minear, Tim (March 16, 2004). "An Open Letter from Tim Minear". TimMinear.net. Retrieved November 3, 2007. 
  10. ^ Ryan, Maureen. 'Smith' is gone, 'Heroes' gets a full season: TV news you can use. Chicago Tribune: October 6, 2006.
  11. ^ Wedding Bells in Jump The Shark[dead link]
  12. ^ Derschowitz, Jessica. Fox renews "Touch," cancels "The Finder," "Alcatraz" - Celebrity Circuit - CBS News. CBS News: May 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Pergament, Alan (March 4, 2014). Ellen, Milbury, ex-Ch.2 reporter all take shots. The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  14. ^ Rice, Lynette (November 22, 2010). "Fox execs on 'American Idol,' 'Fringe' moves: 'It's the right moment'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  15. ^ Buchaan, Kyle (December 14, 2010). "Fox Markets Fringe With New ‘Friday Death Slot’ Ad". New York Magazine. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  16. ^ Jensen, Jeff (December 16, 2010). "'Fringe' exclusive: Fox execs on its 'deathslot'-spoofing promo and plans to attract new viewers". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  17. ^ Rice, Lynette (March 24, 2011). "'Fringe' renewed for a fourth season". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  18. ^ Poniewozik, James (2012-04-27). "Best of Both Worlds: Fringe Gets One More (Final) Season". Time. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  19. ^ a b Page, Don (August 15, 1968). "'Star Trek' Lives Despite Taboos". Toledo Blade. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ "A Look at Star Trek" at www.tvobscurities.com
  21. ^ Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows 1946–present, 7th edition.
  22. ^ Lowry, Brian (2000-04-14). "‘TGIF’? Well, ABC's Not So Sure Anymore". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  23. ^ CBS Casts a Spell Over Friday Night.[verification needed] Zap2It: November 3, 2007
  24. ^ Friday Night 'Numb3rs' Favor CBS.[verification needed] Zap2It: November 10, 2007
  25. ^ WWE Puts the 'Smackdown' on MyNetworkTV – Show will make its new network debut in the fall – Zap2it
  26. ^ "Disney Channel/DisneyChannel.com Highlights For 2008". Retrieved January 19, 2009. 
  27. ^ Kissell, Rick; Schneider, Michael (August 18, 2007). "'High School Musical 2' huge hit". Variety. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 

Further reading[edit]