Upfronts Special: Former NBC Scheduling Chief Forecasts the Fall Season

HOLLYBLOG: Gazing into my crystal ball, I pick the new shows, timeslot changes and ratings for the fall

As executive vice president of program planning and scheduling at NBC Entertainment, Mitch Metcalf was responsible for overseeing long-range program planning and scheduling for the NBC Television Network. This is his prediction, republished courtesy of Showbuzz Daily, as to what to expect in the fall season, and his analysis of what will really be going on behind the numbers. The numbers are his projected Adults 18-49 ratings for each show; the capitalized titles are the new shows; and italics are for shows changing their timeslots. (Note: Monday scheduling grid was last updated on May 11; Showbuzz Daily's Mitch Salem co-wrote this report.)

NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS and the CW will present their new shows next Monday-Thursday at star-studded events in New York, but there’s no reason you should have to wait that long to find out what you’ll be watching a few months from now. In conjunction with ShowBuzzDaily, I've put together an advance look at the schedules for all the networks, complete with their Fall 2011 Adult 18-49 ratings.

How can I do that, you ask? Have I created a time machine, traveled to
next fall, and journeyed back with hard-won knowledge (after a side trip to fight off the dinosaurs from TERRA NOVA)? Well, no. In fact, a disclaimer: I may not be 100% right.

For one thing, I haven’t yet seen the actual pilots, the quality of which will go some way (although maybe not as far as you’d think) into the decisions that get made. But I've been part of the network Upfront process for a long time, and even if I don’t know exactly what the networks will ultimately do — and trust me, you wouldn’t believe the reasons for some of their decisions — I have a good idea of what they’re likely to do, and even more important, what they SHOULD do.

I won’t just tell you my projections of the new schedules, I'll tell you why they make sense. Then next week, I’ll cover all the real schedules as they’re announced, and tell you how they screwed up — um, how they diverged from my predictions — and why.

So let's begin:

Although CBS will leave its schedule fairly stable, with just one new show (the sitcom TWO BROKE GIRLS with Kat Dennings), they face the biggest challenge of the night: keeping TWO AND A HALF MEN a hit without Charlie Sheen. We think the loss of Sheen is going to lower their rating at 9 p.m., but that the show will still perform strongly for them, and they should continue to hold steady for the night.

NBC’s Monday was a disaster this past season, with THE EVENT, THE CAPE and LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES all failing, CHUCK barely surviving, and HARRY’S LAW only doing well enough to justify a move to a new home with the sparser, older audiences on Fridays. We think they’ll completely redo the night, leading off with their new hit reality show THE VOICE, and then trying to build on that lead-in with two new sitcoms that have great buzz: UP ALL NIGHT with Christina Applegate, Maya Rudolph and Will Arnett, and ARE YOU THERE VODKA? IT’S ME CHELSEA, starring Laura Prepon and based on the bestselling Chelsea Handler book. With a strong, female-oriented backbone on the night, we think they’ll move PARENTHOOD over from Tuesday, where it’s been critically acclaimed but ratings challenged. All these moves should give them a significantly higher rating for the night than they had this year.

FOX will make a big change on Mondays by following HOUSE with the new ALCATRAZ, from J.J. Abrams (LOST, FRINGE) and featuring LOST alums both in its cast (Jorge Garcia aka Hurley) and its writing staff. It’s a crime drama with a supernatural tinge, and those can be risky, garnering limited—although enthusiastic–audiences. But we think ALCATRAZ has a shot of catching the wider crowds that previously showed up for LOST and HEROES.

ABC, which generally wins the night with its combo of DANCING WITH THE STARS and CASTLE, has no reason to make any changes, and The CW will stick with its brand-name shows 90210 and GOSSIP GIRL, which hits their audience of Women 18-34.

Next: Tuesday.

The rest of the week: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday