ABC should recruit Nathan Fillion’s The Rookie to not only fill the Roseanne-shaped hole in its fall line-up, but fix a second Tuesday problem as well.
I was first of this thought in the immediate wake of Roseanne‘s recent and quite unanticipated cancellation (which was precipitated by its star’s racist tweet aimed at former President Obama aide Valerie Jarrett; you may have read about it). I had pushed the idea aside, but now, having screened the first episode of The Rookie, I believe it is the right move to make. And here is why.
FOR STARTERS, a lot of the knee-jerk “armchair scheduling” done to address ABC’s loss of a huge lead-off hitter for its Tuesday lineup — Roseanne‘s revival was, among other things, the TV season’s No. 1-rated comedy and the second-most watched primetime program overall — has focused on what sitcom to slot in its place. (Roseanne Season 11 would have teed up the freshman comedy The Kids Are Alright, which would then lead into the black-ish/Splitting Up Together block.)
ABC, though, has only been programming this two-hour Tuesday comedy block for two seasons. As recently as Spring 2016, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. occupied the 9/8c hour, while it was four years ago that the Marvel drama opened Tuesday nights. So returning a drama to the leadoff spot is not at all unprecedented, nor unusual. Also, The Rookie — which stars Fillion as a newbie policeman of a certain age — is lighter and brighter fare than its trailer suggests. I mean, we’re not talking about putting Criminal Minds in the family hour.
SECONDLY, Nathan Fillion is practically a brand, known for his genre-TV cred but also extremely familiar to ABC audiences from his eight-season run as Castle. While conventional TV-programming wisdom advises against opening a night with a new show, instead letting established series do the heavy lifting, a Fillion-fronted procedural is the next best thing to a sure thing. I have to think that if properly marketed/promoted, it would deliver a larger audience than any Roseanne-less Roseanne offshoot or the Sue-centric The Middle spinoff (which I can’t imagine could be ready for fall). I’m not promising The Rookie will deliver a huge audience; just a larger one than ABC will get with any one-hour sitcombo.
LASTLY, launching Tuesdays with The Rookie saves the promising drama from having to close the night, as it is currently scheduled to do. Now, I don’t need to tell you what a black hole the Tuesdays-at-10/9c slot has been for ABC over the past seven years… because I can instead just link you to this handy story/chart. History has shown us that (almost*) regardless of a show’s pedigree or promise, it’s a Sisyphean struggle to come away from the “death slot” with a second season. (*For the People surprisingly-ish scored one, I reckon, because ABC wants to hoard its last pieces of the Shondaland pie.) Like many a drama that came before it, The Rookie deserves better than to sink in ABC’s primetime quicksand. Why throw good money/content at a historically bad time slot? Let’s remember the definition of insanity, please.
So, to summarize for our 280-character culture:
* ABC should move The Rookie from its planned 10 pm perch to the Tuesday lead-off spot, where Fillion’s familiar face, a terrific supporting cast and an accessible, fun premise should deliver a decent crowd.
* Lead out of The Rookie at 9pm with at least one sitcom block — and in my opinion, go ahead with a second one at 10. Airing comedies that late is a bit unorthodox, yes, but 1) what a nice alternative they’d be to the law enforcement/medical procedurals on CBS and NBC, 2) sitcoms today are hard-pressed to deliver a meaty audience regardless, and 3) let’s face it, it’s comedies that we tend to watch/catch up on via Hulu and such.
I now open the floor to discussion.