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 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. Today, it reflects the belief that young, single Americans rarely watch television on Friday or Saturday nights, thereby removing from the household the most lucrative demographic for advertisers.
Programs affected by the "death slot"
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 ABC network 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[original research?]||First and only season.|
|1999–2001||The Norm Show||Third and final season (2001). Although initially subject to stellar ratings, the second season saw ratings fluctuate due to timeslot changes.|
|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.|
|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 final season. Though its lead-in, Last Man Standing, was renewed for its fourth season, The Neighbors was canceled.|
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.||First and only season. Music from the show was later utilized for coverage of the Olympic Games.|
|2000||FreakyLinks[original research?]||Cancelled midway through its first and only season.|
|2000–2002||Dark Angel||Second and final season.|
|2000–2004||Boston Public||Fourth and final season.|
|2002–2003||Firefly||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.|
|2003||Wanda at Large||Second and final season.|
|2003||Luis||Cancelled during its first and only season, airing only 5 of its 10 episodes in the U.S.|
|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||Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?||Third season, last one to air on Fox. The fourth and fifth seasons were broadcast on MyNetworkTV and syndication outlets with a different format starting in September 2009. Fox revived the show for a sixth season in November 2014.|
|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.|
|2008–2009||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.|
|2010–2014||Raising Hope||Fourth and final season|
|2012||The Finder||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.|
|2014||Utopia||Moved to Fridays less than a month into its first and only season; canceled one month later after 12 episodes due to extremely low ratings.|
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 promotional 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 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. 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. This “encore slot” was made a permanent part of the schedule for the 2014-15 season. Fox did not include an “encore slot” in 2015-16, but the show chosen to fill the 9:00 p.m. time slot was the low-budget panel game World's Funniest Fails.
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. 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."
The following are examples of NBC shows that started on Friday nights and lasted for 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|
|2003||Miss Match||Cancelled during its first and only season, airing only 11 of its 18 episodes in the U.S.|
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. 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 (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.
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.
The following are all examples of CBS shows that either started on Friday nights and lasted a few episodes, or moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually cancelled:
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1989–1993||Major Dad||Fourth and final season.|
|1992–1993||Bob||Second and final season.|
|1992–1993||The Golden Palace||First and only season; eighth and final season (only one on CBS) in the continuity of The Golden Girls storyline.|
|1997–1998||Family Matters||Ninth and final season. Only season to air on CBS.|
|1997–1998||Step by Step||Seventh and final season. Only season to air in CBS after declining ratings in seasons five and six.|
|1997–2005||JAG||Tenth and final season (2004). The series ran on CBS since the third season and moved to Fridays at the beginning of the ninth season.|
|1999–2005||60 Minutes II||Last three months of the series' run, which had otherwise run on Wednesdays. The series was already heavily damaged by the Killian documents controversy by the time it moved to a burn-off slot on Fridays.|
|2003–2005||Joan of Arcadia||Second and final season.|
|2005–2007||Close to Home||Second and final season.|
|2008||The Ex List||First and only season. Leaving nine of its thirteen episodes unaired.|
|2009–2011||Medium||Seventh and final season. Two seasons aired in CBS after suffered declining ratings in season five.|
|2010–2011||The Defenders||Moved to Friday nights midway through its first and only season.|
|2012–2013||Vegas||Moved to Friday nights midway through its first and only season.|
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 WCW was bought by 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, 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.
Despite its reputation, Friday night prime time has also seen numerous successful series run for multiple years. The aforementioned Dallas rated in the Top 10 of the Nielsen ratings for seven consecutive seasons and was the top-rated series for three of those seasons. In the 1970s, NBC's Sanford and Son managed to crack the Top 10 for all but one of its six seasons, despite airing its entire run on Friday nights.
ABC 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. Last Man Standing which was successful, was not affected in the death slot.
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit developed a large and loyal audience on NBC on Friday nights when it was moved there from Mondays in the middle of the first season in January 2000. SVU remained on Fridays through the second, third and fourth seasons before moving to Tuesdays in season five in September 2003. Now airing on Wednesdays, SVU is in its 16th season as of March 2015 and has been renewed for a 17th.
More recently, the CBS fantasy series Ghost Whisperer enjoyed a successful five-season run on Friday nights as do currently airing shows Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods. In addition, the long-running reality TV series The Amazing Race moved from Sunday to Friday nights since the 2014 season.
The CW show Supernatural was moved to Friday for its 6th and 7th seasons, allegedly to test its true drawing power compared to the stations more glitzy drama shows. Many fans, knowing about the 'death slot', feared that this meant it was on its way to be cancelled but actually increased in viewership. This lead to the network moving them back up into mid-week scheduling, eventually back to its original WB slot, Tuesdays. In 2015, midseason, the show was moved to Wednesday evenings where it had also aired. For a majority of the show's run, the program was scheduled on Thursdays, Mondays being the only weekday it was not aired on and it has maintained its audience in all time slots.
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, Girl Meets World 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). 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.
- Broadcast programming
- The dump months, the equivalent of the Friday night death slot in the annual North American movie calendar.
- 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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