The History Of Tuesday Night TV And What To Watch Tonight


Welcome to Tuesday.  You may not know what to watch tonight, and I can’t blame you.  Everyone is after Tuesday night suddenly, and it’s a pretty confusing turn of events if you’ve been paying attention… for a really long time.

Tuesday has been a throw away for so many years, that if you were lucky, there was one decent show you might catch.  Everyone wants it now, and there are more ratings leaders and heavy-hitting alternatives than any Tuesday night in the history of television.  Actually, when you look at what all the different networks are doing, it’s a fairly brilliant schedule.

Let’s take a quick peek at Tuesday over time, and then take a look at what’s on tonight.  It’ll be fun.

Now, if you took a second to stop and think about it (and why would you?), you might be inclined to wonder why on earth Tuesday would historically put up such a dreary schedule.  You might be a little surprised right now, faced as you are with this claim, as you try to think back on the Tuesdays of your life.  It’s the middle of the week, and people by and large ought to be home and available to affix themselves to their couches.  Well, let’s see.

We’ll only go back as far as 1988.  This schedule may throw you for a second, as there are only three networks, but just relax and soon the dizziness will pass.

Now, you may look down, and immediately wonder what the hell I’m talking about, because you’re going to say, “I love that show!”

Tuesday

PM

8:00

8:30

9:00

9:30

10:00

10:30

ABC

Who’s the Boss?

Roseanne (Oct.)

Moonlighting

thirtysomething

CBS

TV 101 (Nov.)

The CBS Tuesday Night Movies

NBC

Matlock

In the Heat of the Night

Midnight Caller (Oct./Dec.)

Roseanne is a good show (I’m going to refer to shows in present tense… they aren’t on, but they aren’t dead), and thirtysomething was trying to establish something with Tuesday, but the point is that no one is fighting with anyone.  NBC and ABC have simply agreed to split the old and young audiences, and CBS is in the midst of its official stance of giving up on Tuesday entirely with the classic Tuesday Night Movie.  Sure, you may really like Roseanne (or Matlock), but even if you only tolerate thirtysomething, what are you going to do, switch to the last half of a movie?

OK, let’s jump to 1992.

Tuesday

PM

8:00

8:30

9:00

9:30

10:00

10:30

ABC

Full House

Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

Roseanne

Coach

Going to Extremes

CBS

Rescue 911

9:00:Tropical Heat 10:00:The CBS Tuesday Night Movies

NBC

Quantum Leap

Sonny Spoon

Dateline NBC

Coach survived a while, riding on Roseanne’s coattails.  Well, last half of Sonny Spoon anyone?  Full House took off of course, because if there’s any chance you’ll watch Full House, you aren’t watching Quantum Leap10:00 is the dead zone, and surprisingly Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper stuck it out for 38 episodes, perhaps because there is really no logical way to change the channel.  CBS is still working on the theory that Tuesday does not actually exist.

Let’s jump again.

Now it’s 1996.  Whew… channels.

Tuesday

PM

8:00

8:30

9:00

9:30

10:00

10:30

ABC

Ellen

Life’s Work

Home Improvement

Spin City

N.Y.P.D. Blue

CBS

Promised Land

CBS Tuesday Movies

FOX

Fox Tuesday Night Movie

Local Programming

NBC

Mad About You

Something So Right

Frasier

Caroline in the City

Dateline NBC

UPN

Moesha

Homeboys in Outer Space

The Burning Zone

Local Programming

Here we have a bit of a scrap starting out.  ABC is not happy about Roseanne leaving yet, but it is trying to remain focused on a youngish crowd.  NBC has flipped its game to follow ABC, and thrown the older set to CBS, or wherever they may land.  Only shortly before this CBS was in fact officially dubbed Old People NetworkFOX got the idea that CBS had a good thing going with a movie night, and somehow managed to steal their name, leaving CBS to try to hip itself up with Tuesday MoviesCBS was quoted as saying, “There’s nothing there!”  There’s also a channel at the bottom of the list there. (crickets)

Jump!

And, then it’s 2000.

Aha!  WB!  And, the introduction of “local programs.”  OOoooo.  This is also referred to by suits in big network offices as, “Pffff… Whatever.”

Okay, now I kind of liked Dharma & Greg for a while, but ABC has clearly lost control of the night here.  Unsure how to respond to new networks aiming even younger, ABC all but abandoned the night.  Millionaire is only on because it was on every night.  FOX and NBC can’t figure out how to wrangle the entire 8:00 hour, and WB is blossoming into serious contention by getting a staggering number of high-schoolers to say, “Duuuude.”  CBS sits meekly in the corner and mutter to itself, “We have JAG.”  NBC curiously counters, “DAG!”

Jump!

It’s 2004.  Try to just ignore PAX.  Hey, good job.

     8:00     

     8:30     

     9:00     

     9:30     

    10:00     

    10:30     

abc

My Wife
& Kids

Sep 21

George Lopez
Sep 28

According to Jim
Sep 21

Rodney
Sep 21

NYPD Blue
Sep 21

cbs

NCIS
Sep 28

Clubhouse
Sep 26

Judging Amy
Sep 28

fox

The Billionaire Nov 9
until
 American Idol in Jan

The Next Great ChampSep 7 until House Nov 16

local programs

nbc

Last Comic Standing
Aug 30

Father of the Pride
Aug 31

Scrubs
Aug 31

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Sep 21

pax

On the Cover

Balderdash

Second Verdict
Oct 5

Sue Thomas: F.B. EYE
repeats

upn

All of UsSep 21

Eve Sep 21

Veronica Mars
Sep 22

local programs

wb

Gilmore Girls Sep 21

One Tree Hill Sep 21

local programs

 

 

WB (I just refuse to say “The”) is getting pretty serious, and pretty well has a stranglehold on its target audience.  ABC is trying to catch that warm, friendly sitcom high it’s been Jonesing for since Roseanne’s departure.  Well, and then it figures it has to have a cop show to try and stand up to the Law & Order behemoth.  FOX is just filling the gaps at the start of the season.  CBS is suddenly like an old people drug dealer who perked up, because look at you coming back now after all those freebies.  You see Judging Amy still on up there four frickin’ years later?!

But, the point is that this is not a hot night.  You may like or love shows up there, or on any of the lineups before, but the night in general has problems.  If you love Gilmore Girls (well, hooray for you frankly), the rest of the night is pretty much… whatever.  You may love NYPD Blue, but you’re equally yawning at the rest of the offerings.  OK, Scrubs, but what a spot.

Until American Idol kicks in, Tuesday in general is a ratings black hole.

Jump!

Now, it’s…

Tuesday!  Tuesday!  Tuesday!!!

I can’t even manage a real schedule, because there are too many things to stuff into it.  I’m just going to tell you what’s on.  I’m not necessarily saying that any of these are the best shows ever.  On the other hand,

several of them have serious ratings,

several of them should,

several of them shouldn’t, but will get them,

several of them are after the same targets,

and several of them are strong alternatives to whatever is the biggest thing on at the time.

And, some of them are just goofy fun that might have strong appeal.

HouseFOX.  Season Premiere.  If you don’t know the show already, it’s not worth telling you now.

WipeoutABC.  Season Finale (whatever that means).  I believe it is a recap show, despite the fact that the thing has already had a recap show.  Contestants go through ridiculous obstacle courses and fall down a lot.  There are Big Red Balls.  Look, I know, but it has gotten really high ratings.  Shut up, you watch it.

90210. CW.  Again, you know or you don’t.  You can read another post where I mention this here.

Biggest Loser: Families. NBC.  Season Premiere.  Lose weight.  Reality television.  Except that it doesn’t teach viral internet marketing, and doesn’t have Paris Hilton, it’s got the top searches covered.  I don’t know, it’s popular.

NCIS. CBS.  It’s the show related to crime that is on in this spot, because the new FCC regulations mandate there be one in every spot.  Naval… Criminal… La la la

Lincoln HeightsABCFam.  Season Premiere of this popular show about a family living in a bad neighborhood.

That’s just one hour, and now things are really going to get crazy.

Big Brother 10. CBS.  Season Finale.  You’re on the edge of your seat.  I’m not with you, but I see you there.

Fringe. FOX.  The new show by J.J. Abrams who brought us Lost, and now brings us really weird aliens, or something, that we learn about after a strange plane incident… which show was I describing again?

Privileged. CW.  Something about a fairly “normal” person getting stuck in a world of rich snobs in Palm Beach.  The marketing focus group got really pissed when they tried to call it 33480.

Eureka. SciFi.  New Episode of the wacky, wonderful show about a small town, isolated and secret, that was created by the government to provide a residence for the super-geniuses of the country.  There these braniacs perform research that will change the world, and leave odd experiment rejects wandering around.  It’s like Northern Exposure… well, on the SciFi channel.

Greek.  ABCFam.  According to the show’s own site, this is a “dramedy… which focuses on the social minefield that is the Greek system.”  I don’t know, it’s popular, and not particularly horrible.  It oddly suffers from a bizarre, reverse 90210 age bend.  Where I can’t believe anyone on 90210 is young enough to be in high school, I can’t believe anyone in this one is old enough to be in college.  TV is weird.

The Cleaner. A & E.  A show which has been much discussed.  It is based on the “true story” of an EXTREME INTERVENTIONIST.  Shazam!

The Rachel Zoe Project. Bravo.  Series Premire.  Whackjob stylist-to-the-stars (but I qualify unnecessarily) Rachel Zoe in what describes itself as a docudrama about her hectic life.  Built apparently off the success of, and the bastard love child of, Project Runway and Flipping Out.

The Shield. FX. New Episode.  Crazy cop show.  You know it.

Law & Order: SVU.  People could watch it.

Whatever, Martha!  Fine Living.  Series Premiere of a show in which Martha Stewart’s daughter apparently sits around bagging on her mom.  No one thought of this before?!

Good Luck.  I hope you have two Tivos.

Are You Screening?

Written by

Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet’s film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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