A Not So HAPPY ENDING? A Closer Look at ABC’s Friday Night Scheduling Strategy

happy endings season three castBy: BigTVFan

Despite popular opinion of the show’s fans – of which I count myself a big one – I honestly believe ABC is a fan of HAPPY ENDINGS. In fact, I think they would love nothing more than the shows ratings to match the mega-talent of its phenomenal cast and its clever writing. Unfortunately, the simple fact of the matter is that some shows — no matter how good — just don’t connect with mainstream America like a somewhat similar comedy about young early thirty somethings named NEW GIRL. To me, HAPPY ENDINGS has a very mainstream feel not unlike FRIENDS (although it’s different from that show on many levels.) And while I never expected it to get FRIENDS like ratings, I can’t explain why the show cant seem to get above a 1.3 and 4 million viewers in same day ratings.

Many are viewing this “Save HAPPY ENDINGS promo” as a negative.

I look it as a call to arms from ABC saying “Are you a fan of this show? So are we, but after three seasons (inducing one behind our highest rated comedy, MODERN FAMILY), these low ratings are not gonna cut it anymore. If you’re a fan of this show and you know others who are – you all need to watch it on Friday”.

Many people view the Friday timeslot as ABC dumping the show. If ABC wanted to just dump the show they would have aired the last 10 episodes in the summer, not on a night they have been winning all season. Even if HAPPY ENDINGS does okay on Friday, it will be a serious downgrade from the numbers ABC had been getting with LAST MAN STANDING and MALIBU COUNTRY. Networks aren’t in the habit of happily trading high ratings for possibly lower ones unless it’s for a show they believe in.

The multi cams on ABC were doing quite well on Friday (in fact much better than HAPPY ENDINGS was doing on the more viewed Tuesday). They were regularly getting close to 7 million a week (even 4 million in reruns – again, more than HAPPY ENDINGS was getting on Tuesday). ABC didn’t give those shows a full 22, rather just 18 episodes, in order for the shows to end in late March. (I never quite understood why they didn’t order 22 episodes of these good performing comedies to run through the end of the season). The original plan was for PRIMETIME NIGHTLINE to take over Fridays at 9PM right about now (a concession for the timeslot shift to 12:30AM). I assume ABC then planned to move SHARK TANK back to 8PM (otherwise why limit the multi cams to 18)? Now NIGHTLINE’s Primetime launch has been pushed to the summer and ABC has slotted HAPPY ENDINGS for a double shot of new episodes for 5 weeks to air the last remaining 10 episodes of season 3. Realistically they won’t come close to the numbers the multi cams were getting. As I said, the multi cams were doing better on Friday than HAPPY ENDINGS was doing on Tuesday, but I think ABC is realistic in not expecting that.

So what would HAPPY ENDINGS have to do, to not be considered a massive failure on Friday? Well as if 8PM in Daylight Savings Time Spring wasn’t enough of a challenge, the show is re-launching on Easter weekend when viewing patterns tend to be much lower. In its favor is the fact that its competition isn’t that strong. FASHION STAR isn’t a hit, KITCHEN NIGHTMARES is regularly 3rd in its timeslot (and is a rerun this week) and CBS is airing March Madness Basketball. That will no doubt be the winner at 8p but one would think those looking for a non sports option will find HAPPY ENDINGS a welcome alternative. Plus there are no other comedies in the slot.

So let’s be real: There’s likely no way HAPPY ENDINGS will approach the 7 million and 1.7/1.4  that LAST MAN STANDING and MALIBU COUNTRY got last week. But I think if the show gets a 1.0 and over or at least close to 3 million, ABC will be somewhat satisfied. It’s not likely to do any better than that. It’s quite possible the show will pull no higher than a .8 and under 3 million and that will all but assure the show won’t return. ABC has a new SHARK TANK scheduled and there’s a chance for HAPPY ENDINGS to get some pre tune in for that. (There is only one SHARK TANK rerun left to air this season and that is scheduled for April 12th). If the show gets under a 1.0, that will seal HAPPY ENDINGS fate unfortunately. But if the show get under a 1.0 AND hurts SHARK TANK in the process (which has consistently been the nights #1 show and hit a 2.0 in its last new episode) that will likely get HAPPY ENDINGS pulled immediately with its remaining episodes banished to summer.

At the end of this season the show will have produced 57 episodes. Another season of 24 will hit 81 episodes. Even if ABC (who co owns the show with Sony) just produced another season to air next summer - just to get to syndication, it still won’t even hit the 88 episodes usually preferred for syndication.

The odds and ratings patterns are against HAPPY ENDINGS working on Friday (but stranger things have happened). Like I said, Easter weekend usually produces lower numbers, plus look at the ratings this week already -  THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY have produced series lows. But trying to decipher Nielsen ratings is usually a fruitless exercise. I do know that the show will have to show some signs of life (and an audience) to come back. As I said, I think ABC is hoping its loyal but small audience turns out on Friday. It’s up to the viewing public now.

BigTVfan has been analyzing the business of show since September 2010. Visit his blog at bigtvfan.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @bigtvfan.

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  • http://twitter.com/Realme2011 Brandy

    It’s really saddening that a show this outstanding is struggling to find an audience. I love it and will be watching faithfully every Friday.