Mar 15, 2018
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's guide to surviving the Friday Night Death Slot
The CW is lucky that the team behind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t actually crazy.
One can only imagine the boiled bunnies that would crop up in network executives’ pots after the CW announced that for the fall 2016 schedule, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would air on Friday nights after The Vampire Diaries, a teen melodrama about vampires that I bet you forgot was still on the air.
It’s a strange move considering that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is critically acclaimed, won what is only the network’s second Golden Globe, has quirky musical numbers that go viral, and features Rachel Bloom’s rack on a regular basis.
It’s likely that the CW split Crazy Ex-Girlfriend up from its equally quirky and equally acclaimed Monday night partner Jane the Virgin to accommodate the arrival of Supergirl, and the musical comedy got the short end of the schedule switcheroo due to the fact it’s never been as highly rated as CW’s DC superhero dramas.
Nevertheless, everyone knows that very few shows survive the Friday Night Death Slot. Does this mean the CW is preparing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for the axe? Or is the CW hoping the show can grab steadier ratings on a night with less competition?
Either way, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can learn valuable lessons from the shows that were slaughtered by and survived Friday night.
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DO: Make Sure Fans Follow You, No Matter Where You Go
Ugly Betty, also a critical darling and award winner, hit a slump in the ratings during its third season. ABC moved it to Fridays for its fourth season, but fans protested the move and for the second half of the season, the network moved the show to a better Wednesday night slot. For a minute, it looked like Ugly Betty was going to be resurrected from the dead.
Unfortunately, fan fervor didn’t translate into viewers. Ratings kept declining in the fourth season, and ABC announced that it would be the final one. Fans tried to gain traction to get a concluding movie made, but let’s face it, even if it got made, I’m sure the fans would have let it bomb at the box office. Actions speak louder than Change.org petitions, Betty fans!
Tip for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Track down all the fans who claim they “love” your show, tie them up and park them in front of the TV during 9 pm on Friday nights. But, you know, make sure they’re Nielsen viewers first.
DON’T: Treat Friday Night Like a Dumpster
Fringe blended The X-Files, the standard criminal procedure, and a fantastical mythology format to form a cult favorite. Again, its cult status wasn’t enough to save it from the Death Slot in the middle of its third season. Fans across parallel universes were ready to mourn the death of Fringe, but then FOX came out with a cheeky promo acknowledging the bad reputation of Friday nights. They put a positive spin on the Death Slot, promising that “Fridays were about to get freaky.”
The wink-wink nudge-nudge of the promos relieved fans who assumed that FOX was just going to dump the show in a bad slot and wait for the episode order to burn off. FOX entertainment chief Kevin Reilly went on the record saying, “You have a far better shot of sticking with a show that has an audience that you think you can grow“, indicating that FOX was more willing to be patient with Fringe‘s schedule adjustment. Fans followed Fringe to its new timeslot (unlike some people) and FOX gave it two seasons in the Death Slot, which gave the show enough time to wrap up loose ends and have a satisfying finale.
Tip for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Send Rachel Bloom to suck up to network executives and beg for extra time to recover from any ratings hits. In a low-cut blouse, of course.
DO: Treat Every Season Finale as a Series Finale, Just in Case
Las Vegas never had the best ratings, despite numerous celebrity cameos and frequent crossovers with other more popular NBC shows such as Crossing Jordan. The network moved it to Friday nights, where ratings obviously declined, but Las Vegas still retained steady enough numbers. The show already hit syndication in season 2, and with the arrival of Tom Selleck in season 5, Las Vegas thought it would be safe for a couple more seasons.
Unfortunately for Las Vegas, its steady viewership wasn’t enough to justify the budget and the show was abruptly cancelled after 19 out of its 22 final season episodes had been filmed. The writers hoped to tie up loose ends on the TV revival crossover with Knight Rider (pause for laughter here) but that show got cancelled, and Las Vegas ended as is.
Tip for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Don’t get cocky if you survive the Death Slot. Don’t film cliffhangers in hopes of attracting enough audience numbers to get renewed. Play it safe and act as if cancellation is always imminent. And since you’re on Friday nights, it probably is.
DON’T: Retool Every Single Season
Prison Break had a simple premise: a guy went to prison and his brother was going to help him break out. Of course, the premise was going only going to stay fresh for as long as it took to escape, so understandably the writers needed to find a way to keep the show going. For the second season, the writers chose to focus on the aftermath of the escape and continued to earn its acclaimed reputation. Unfortunately, they chose a ridiculous premise for the seasons after that: a mysterious government conspiracy and a prison run by prisoners.
Ratings declined, and the critical acclaim went away, so no fans were really upset when the show got the axe, just disappointed that it ended so badly.
Tip for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Once Rebecca Bunch finally wins over her ex or finds the right medication, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend won’t be a live-action Overly Attached Girlfriend meme anymore, which is fine. However, the show shouldn’t try to keep going over the top to retain its quirky nature. If it does, well, it can just hope that CW will be nostalgic enough to bring it back for a limited series in the future.
DO: Make Sure Your Network Doesn’t Hate You
Happy Endings started off as a midseason replacement that burned off two episodes a week, sometimes even airing out of order. ABC claimed it was an attempt to get viewers invested in the show, but really, it just confused the hell out of people, since Happy Endings was getting slow but positive buzz. Then for its second season, ABC kept switching it around in the schedule and then didn’t air the second season finale in favor of premiering Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.
When the show was finally moved to Friday nights for its third season, the producers of Happy Endings got the hint that ABC hated their show and would stop at nothing to kill it. Happy Endings was shopped around to other networks, and there appeared some hope with interest from USA, but they eventually declined, stating that Happy Endings had ratings too low in its third season to take a chance on it.
Tip for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Pray to God your network isn’t entirely filled with idiots. That’s really the only thing you can do, honestly.
Do you think Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will survive the Friday Night Death Slot?