Fall TV Schedule 2012 – The Rundown And What To Watch

It’s that time of year again, and the fall television schedule is another trip into the wild. This is going to be an interesting fall, in part because last season had so many big efforts that didn’t go anywhere. You can see the wake of that effort in the listings, more as a matter of the absence of similar series.

Let’s take a look at what’s coming, and figure out just how much is worth watching, if anything is worth setting into your DVR, and how much of the week is going to be available for the cable networks to grab hold of you.



Sunday has always been a strange night in the line-up, and we now see further evidence of each network trying to create their own niche, and get a stranglehold on their chosen demographic. It’s now a night that has pretty well given up on competing with each other.

NBC has football, and FOX isn’t about to move away from Animation Domination. The CW is local throughout the night.



ABC Once Upon a Time

CBS The Amazing Race

FOX The Simpsons – Bob’s Burgers

NBC Football

You can see already, we just aren’t after the same audiences. Sure, some people are going to be recording The Simpsons while they watch football, and I suppose you may have some Once Upon a Time and The Amazing Race fans, but we’re basically sticking to our own little corner of the world here. Thus, a winner for the time slot is meaningless to pick, because if you’re a big fan of one, you probably have little interest in the others.

I’m largely over most of the non-sports choices, but it’s hard not to stick with The Amazing Race. Once Upon a Time was a surprise hit though, and it’s probably going to continue to do pretty well. Still, it’s an interesting time slot (and night), because you have to wonder how much danger anything is really in, because we knew we weren’t getting those other viewers anyway, how would you justify cancelling anything?



ABC Revenge

CBS The Good Wife

FOX Family Guy – American Dad

NBC Football

We’re hoping to keep people stuck here, and it’s probably going to work. Revenge is another one that did better than expected, and while it doesn’t exactly fit a theme sandwiched between Once Upon a Time and 666 Park Avenue, it fits the demographic, especially among those not real interested in The Good Wife, football, or Family Guy.

I’ll give Revenge a bit of credit, it’s on the fair enough side of guilty pleasures, and manages to stick to “out there,” without being laughable, but this is a good time to find something on cable. The demographic hold will probably work to give each network ratings they’re happy enough with, but it also leaves a big opening here, and we’ve got shows that have either superfans or disinterest. No one is watching The Good Wife anymore because they “sort of think it’s ok, I guess.”

Like I said, no one is probably in a lot of danger here, though The Good Wife may only have so much left to give. Unless people abandon ship in a serious way, these shows should be safe.



ABC 666 Park Avenue

CBS The Mentalist

FOX Local

NBC Football

Now things get slightly tricky. The Mentalist has been holding on, and is still one of my favorites, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth… maybe. FOX goes local, leaving the only serious competition coming from 666 Park Avenue, and that is one screwy-looking show. That may not be bad, and it at least still sticks with (probably) it’s demographic, but that’s a show that makes for a real question mark. The Mentalist has a nice fanbase working for it, and anyone coming off of The Good Wife is liable to stick around, but a lot of other viewers are suddenly up for grabs.

This is hard to call, but I’ll be watching The Mentalist.



Things get a little tricky on Monday, and by that I mean that we’re in solid reality camp, but we’ve got some crossover on our competition. Monday is boring, which means we’re looking for people to actually watch TV. This year it has a bit of an odd flavor to it overall.



ABC Dancing with the Stars

CBS How I Met Your Mother – Partners

CW 90210

FOX Bones

NBC The Voice

This is a weird time slot, but basically, you know who you are. If you’re watching Dancing with the Stars, you aren’t missing it. The Voice isn’t trying to get you away from it, and How I Met Your Mother is rolling its eyes at you. Bones is long past being anything worth watching, even if it was a fun show once. There’s only so much you can take of someone who is allegedly very smart having no ability to learn.

If you can pull yourself away from the reality shows, CBS is the way to go here. Unfortunately, it’s hard to jump into a show that’s this far along, so if you aren’t already a fan of HIMYM, it’s going to be tough getting you over to Partners. Being the only new show, that’s a problem, because it could be a real hit. The positive there is that if you are a fan of HIMYM, this one should work for you as well.



ABC Dancing With the Stars

CBS 2 Broke Girls – Mike & Molly

CW Gossip Girl

FOX Mob Doctor

NBC The Voice

We’re still in the reality slot, and CBS is hoping to hold on to comedy. With these two being big hits already, they shouldn’t have any difficulty. CW has its audience locked up, and FOX has an interesting jump from Bones to the new show Mob Doctor. On paper, I would probably laugh this show off, but it actually looks decent. It also looks like something that could go horribly wrong, but we’ll have to see. The problem is that only superfans are watching Bones, and everyone else could be spoken for.



ABC Castle

CBS Hawaii Five-0

CW Local

FOX Local

NBC Revolution

Here we actually get an interesting fight. Castle has some serious fans, though it may be running out of steam (I think it is, and I was a big fan from the beginning), and Hawaii Five-0 has been doing pretty well. Revolution is one of the only “wacky” adventures that survived through last year’s washout fall. As one of the only “big” things, it may draw some attention, but unless it’s absolutely fantastic, it isn’t going to last. Not because the other two shows are true behemoths, but because they have loyal fans, and there is too much cable competition.

I would love for anything remotely in the sci-fi realm to hang on after the quick failure of so many efforts over the last two years, so I encourage you to give it a chance, but I’m not sure how much hope I have.



Tuesday actually has a very cool comedy vibe going on (once you get past results shows), and the only real problem with it is that it may prove difficult for all the shows to be deemed worthy by their respective networks. It’s a night that has some of the most “real” competition for attention though, and it should be fun.


ABC Dancing With The Stars


CW Hart of Dixie

FOX Raising Hope – Ben and Kate

NBC The Voice

At 8:00 we’re pretty open, and once again, everyone knows where they are. It’s hard to argue with NCIS, even if I can’t stand the show, and if you tuned in yesterday, you probably want to know the reality results. That leaves Raising Hope, which is still pretty fun, with a decent number of viewers, and Hart of Dixie with a fair enough crowd as well. The trick is newcomer Ben and Kate, which has a rough pilot that’s trying too hard at its establishment to give you a good feel for how the show will progress. It’s a nice fit with Raising Hope, but it isn’t quite as fun, and may lose people to cable options.



ABC Happy Endings – Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23


CW Emily Owens, M.D.

FOX New Girl – The Mindy Project

NBC Go On – The New Normal

Now we’ve got a real fight. CBS and CW are looking to pick up whoever isn’t involved in the real action, with CBS hoping to keep viewers around for NCIS night, and CW has one of its two new, very interesting shows. As of right now, Emily Owens, M.D. has a chance of turning into a real surprise breakout. It’s a quirky, cool show that doesn’t exactly fit in line with what you think of when you think CW, and that’s a good thing. It apparently doesn’t kickoff until mid-October though, and that might be an issue for getting people on board.

The comedy fight is a serious one, and it’s tough to call. Happy Endings is still one of my favorite shows, and it fits pretty well with Don’t Trust the B—-, which did well and is still riding high on its performance only a few months ago. FOX is hoping New Girl still has legs, and it’s a good lead in for newcomer The Mindy Project, which is another show with a good chance to be the next “it” show. It’s more toward the snarky side, and this combination could settle itself with a slightly different demographic.

Over at NBC, we’ve got two newcomers, one of which gets to say it has Matthew Perry, and the other gets to say it’s from the creator of GLEE. The potential problems there are that Perry is really still playing Chandler, and the GLEE connection only works on a certain demographic, and not as well as it used to. Go On is actually pretty good, even if the pilot isn’t quite the superhook you’d like, you get the idea that future episodes will deliver something more satisfying. On The New Normal front, while the show about a gay couple who want to hire a surrogate to carry their baby has a certain political-correctness shield against the press, it doesn’t look particularly funny, and Ryan Murphy – thinks the last couple of seasons of GLEE were good, believes his own press a bit too much, and gave NeNe Leakes a job, which is more than I need to know to avoid this one.

What to watch? If they weren’t all on at the same time, I’d probably tell you to watch them all (except NCIS: LA). Look for at least one of the comedies to get axed fairly early, with its counterpart possibly moved to a different night and the hour filled in with a mid-season replacement.



ABC Private Practice

CBS Vegas

CW Local

FOX Local

NBC Parenthood

As we move out of the big fight, we jump right back into everyone letting everyone else alone. Private Practice is still on for some utterly unknowable reason, but if you’re watching, I’m sure you aren’t going anywhere. Parenthood is a clear success, though I lost interest long ago. I have it on good authority that it’s going strong, still producing quality content, and probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

For those who aren’t addicted to those shows, there’s a new Sheriff in town, and a pretty easy choice in something that should be a big win for the new season. Hoping to capitalize on the success of cable series like Boardwalk Empire, Vegas stars Dennis Quaid as real-life Las Vegas sheriff from the 60s, Ralph Lamb. Michael Chiklis returns to television in a “real” role following the failed, and truly goofy attempt at a family-friendly superhero show, and his mob boss character fits him a lot better. With this time slot and all the names associated, this one is a safe bet.



Wednesday doesn’t really have much of a distinct feel to it, with reality battling comedy, drama, and cop shows. It’s a free for all, and not only do we have a lot of genres showing up, but it’s a weird competition when it comes to age demographics.


ABC The Middle – The Neighbors

CBS Survivor

CW Arrow

FOX X Factor

NBC Animal Practice – Guys with Kids

Sandwiched between The Middle, which I still love, and Modern Family, easily one of the best sitcoms in many years, is The Neighbors, easily the stupidest pilot I’ve seen in a decade. Any numbers this show gets can be attributed to broken remotes.

The reality battle is on, and Simon is going to be sweating as the season begins, because whether or not the absolutely moronic selection of new judges is going to kill the show is at this point a very live question. CW shows up with its other serious contender for some new show ratings with Arrow, and the buzz may actually turn into something here. That leaves NBC with a tough road for its new shows, Animal Practice, which looks really bad at first glance, but has some solid comedy, and Guys with Kids, which looks mediocre and doesn’t have a lot of wow factor, but ought to get great numbers as people abandon ABC.




ABC Modern Family – Suburgatory

CBS Criminal Minds

CW Supernatural

FOX X Factor

NBC Law & Order SVU

The middle of primetime leaves viewers with easy choices. I suppose there is some question if you’re trying to choose between Criminal Minds and Law & Order SVU, but beyond that you’ve got a spectrum of genres, and no new shows. The vast majority already know exactly where they’re going here.



ABC Nashville


CW Local

FOX Local

NBC Chicago Fire

This one will be fun to watch. With two new shows battling against CSI, it’s tough to pick a winner. You’d like to think Nashville will pull it out, especially because (if you’re me) you want to see Friday Night Lights‘ Connie Britton in something that’s going to stick around, and you want Charles “Chip” Esten (of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame) to do well. Trouble there is that Chicago Fire is basically Grey’s Anatomy at the fire station, and well… people will tune in to that. Not that Chicago Fire is a bad show, and it has House M.D.‘s Jesse Spencer drawing viewers, but it looks a little… well, fill in your own blank there.

Both shows bill themselves proudly as dramas, and both have too much drama in mind to really be good shows, but Nashville looks more fun, easier to digest, and less in the camp of goofy guilty pleasure. We’ll see what happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these shows didn’t blink and move to another day, as opposed to just getting axed, especially because they both have a fair amount of production behind them, and want to eek out that full season in order to sell DVDs.

Both shows also premiere October 10th.




Thursday is a night utterly devoted to easy choices. The week is rolling along, and we don’t want to put up any tricky choices, because we just can’t predict what you’ll do at this point. We know who you are, we know where you’re going, and we aren’t throwing any monkey wrenches into the system.


ABC Last Resort

CBS The Big Bang Theory – Two and a Half Men

CW The Vampire Diaries

FOX The X Factor

NBC 30 Rock – Up All Night

It might seem like we have comedy vs. comedy here, which would already nullify what I’ve said about the whole no choice thing, but we’ve seen the numbers, we have you categorized, and you’re either 30 Rock or The Big Bang Theory, but not both.

The new show here, Last Resort, is a gooftastic ride that no one is going to be putting in bold on their CV, which is sad, because I like some of the actors. This could do alright, given the possibility of not liking any of the other options, but I imagine cable is taking most of those people. You can never be too sure, after all, Scandal is still on later tonight, and there’s nothing more ridiculous on the schedule, but Last Resort has an uphill battle on its hands, and ABC can be quick to cancel things. I may be overestimating people, but I don’t see a lot of hope for this one. It’s just too silly.



ABC Grey’s Anatomy

CBS Person of Interest

CW Beauty and the Beast

FOX Glee

NBC The Office – Parks and Recreation

We’re in the same boat here, and while there is some switching around here, ABC has its crosshairs firmly pointed at a certain demographic for the entire night. If you’re still watching Grey’s Anatomy (well, God love you, you buy shiny shit), you’re probably locked right into the middle of your favorite night on television, and life could only be improved by the creation of a Grey’s Anatomy-specific cable network.

Comedy fans aren’t going to have a lot of trouble figuring out where to go, and GLEE is still holding onto good numbers, even if the show is long past its prime. The show is really almost a kind of running gag now, as tuning in is mostly a result of wanting to see your favorite song GLEE-ified.

CW has another new effort in Beauty and the Beast, and Smallville and Chuck alum Kristin Kreuk is almost guaranteed to make it through a season.

Person of Interest is arguably the best new show of last season, and it has no real competition for its audience here, and should do pretty well. Of course, with all the established fans of everything else, this is a slot that nothing is likely to dominate outrageously.



ABC Scandal

CBS Elementary

CW Local

FOX Local

NBC Rock Center with Brian Williams

This is a time slot that’s a new show’s dream. Elementary ought to rocket out of sight here almost as though the other networks closed up shop. Competing against local programming, news, and possibly the single worst show on the entire schedule, Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock should become one of the biggest wins in a while.




Friday is always a fun night to look at. There is a sense in which the networks don’t really believe you’re there, and it pisses them off that they have to put shows on, but it isn’t quite Saturday, and they keep giving a few things the old college try… but they squint at you and curl up their lip about it.


ABC Shark Tank


CW America’s Next Top Model

FOX Touch

NBC Whitney – Community

This is that time which is the last bastion of hope. Often referred to as, “still getting ready to go out television,” this is the slot often left open for things you don’t necessarily have to pay too much attention to. Which is why Touch is really out on a limb here. Let’s face it, they’re hoping you’ll record it, and are leaving some chance that you’re old.

I love to see Shark Tank still around, although the dynamics of the show have switched a bit from the UK and Canadian counterparts. In those countries, you get a lot more people showing up who invented something, and a lot less of the next fashion or food line. Which, to me, is a little more boring. Still, fan of this sticking around.

Whitney and Community are custom-made to do well here.



ABC Primetime What Would You Do?

CBS Made in Jersey

CW Nikita

FOX Fringe

NBC Grimm

This is a slot that really just hopes you have a DVR. Fringe has been around too long, and though it has a lot of fans, only still exists because FOX had nothing better to do. Grimm is doing surprisingly well, especially for a show that is “out there,” and CBS figures it can just throw out anything and catch the viewers who don’t want anything “sci-fi.” They may be right, and being the only option left may serve them well, but Made in Jersey looks almost like something made on a dare.



ABC 20/20

CBS Blue Bloods

CW Local

FOX Local

NBC Dateline

This is the last ditch of the week, because no one has anything scheduled for Saturday, and it’s rock solid “you’re old” time. Blue Bloods will probably fare well enough to last, because it has no competition at all outside of cable.



That’s the week. Like I said, no one has anything scheduled on Saturday.


Let me know what you’re going to watch. Are any new shows already pulling you in?




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Marc Eastman
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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