On the other hand, placement in the slot can occasionally yield improved ratings for a struggling show: If such a show suffers low ratings earlier in the broadcast week because it must compete against more attractive programming, a move to Friday evening may improve its ratings because the other shows competing for viewers in the new time slot are weaker or less well known.
Therefore, the Friday night death slot offers networks an opportunity to test the long-term prospects of a traditionally strong show going through a period of struggle: If it regains viewers when placed against the weaker competition featured on Friday evenings, network executives may attribute its ratings drop in its previous time slot to competition with the specific shows aired by other networks at the same time. Therefore, they may restore it to its previous time slot once its quality recovers and/or competing shows hit a slump. (For example, NBC moved season 17 of Law & Order from 10:00 PM EST Wednesday to 10:00 PM EST Friday but returned the series to its Wednesday slot for season 18 and has subsequently renewed it for a nineteenth season. ) If, however, the show is unable to regain viewers even against weaker competition, the odds are greater that its decline has resulted from a substantive and permanent shift in audience tastes, such that the show is unlikely to recover popularity and executives have greater incentive to cancel it.
Whether networks exploit this fact by purposefully moving programs to Friday nights to justify their cancellation is the subject of much continuing debate and cynicism among fans of programs scheduled at these times.
In 2001, ABC attempted to fill the slot with the reality show The Mole, but it was pulled after only three weeks. In the early-mid 2000s, ABC attempted to relaunch TGIF with shows such as Life with Bonnie (during the 2003 season), George Lopez (during the 2003 season) Less Than Perfect (during the 2004 season), Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (during the 2004 season) and Hope and Faith, an effort that ended by 2004.
In the fall of 1997, CBS tried to capitalize off the cancellations of Friday night programs on rival ABC. They gave shows such as Step by Step and Family Matters a second life and created the CBS Block Party to take away ABC's viewers. In September 1997, the CBS Block Party kicked off with Family Matters and Step by Step in their original timeslots and The Gregory Hines Show and Meego were added to the mix. However, CBS failed to adequately promote the programs, resulting in their cancellation after one season. Some argue that viewers of the shows had grown older and moved on to other viewing options which caused the ratings decrease. CBS did not try to use the concept again, sticking to dramas from that point on.
The phenomenon is now seen in regard to other original programming on CBS as well. Joan of Arcadia, which had a successful freshman year in the 2003–2004 season—and was even renewed unusually early, in January 2004, for the following fall season—was cancelled after its second year. The popular CBS show CSI was originally aired on Friday nights before being moved to Thursday nights months after its fall 2000 series premiere; it has remained on Thursday nights ever since. Another popular series that aired on Friday nights at the beginning of the 1996-97 season was Everybody Loves Raymond. After its debut, the show received low ratings; however, the network kept the show and moved it from Fridays to Monday nights, midway throughout the season, to boost ratings, and Raymond performed well over 9 seasons. A similar thing happened previously during the 1990-91 season when the struggling Burt Reynolds comedy Evening Shade was moved to Mondays and would go on to run for four seasons. CBS has also found success in its Friday night lineup with The Ghost Whisperer, The Price Is Right $1,000,000 Spectacular, and Numb3rs. However, the network has also had its fair share of failures on Fridays, including Robbery Homicide Division, Moonlight and Swingtown. The Ex-List, CBS's latest entry into the Friday night lineup, appears to have a limited life span by the nature of its plot (it takes place over the course of one year).
That would have meant Laugh-In would have had to start a half-hour later, and Schlatter did not see why his show, a ratings smash, had to yield that time to the poorly-rated Star Trek, and made no secret of his displeasure. Roddenberry, who never forgave the network for this, made good on a threat to withdraw from personally producing the show, which when combined with the departure of others involved behind the scenes hastened its decline and ensured that there would be no fourth season, and while Schlatter won the battle, it was at his own expense, as it caused Laugh-In cast member Judy Carne to resign in sympathy.
This was only a year before NBC began using demographic breakdowns to decide which shows to air. NBC discovered that even in the 10 p.m. Friday slot, the show nevertheless attracted an audience segment advertisers would have found highly desirable, as it consisted mainly of married couples with lots of disposable income.
In an echo of what happened with the original Star Trek, the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise was rescheduled from Wednesday to Friday nights on UPN for its fourth season (2004–2005), a move which preceded its cancellation in February 2005.
Similarly, Battlestar Galactica flourished at 10 p.m. on Fridays on the Sci-Fi Channel from January 2005 to January 2007, in which time it became one of Sci-Fi's highest-rated programs. For several years, Sci-Fi Channel in fact placed its three highest rated shows on Friday night, airing Galactica alongside Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis in a three-hour Sci-Fi Friday block. This is no longer the case as of the 2006/07 season, however; as of January 21, 2007, Galactica was moved to Sunday nights. It was moved back to Fridays for its last season. Although the name of the block and shows aired on it have changed, the block itself has been (for the most part) very good for many of the Sci-Fi Channel's original shows.
UPN/The CW's WWE Friday Night SmackDown!, originally named SmackDown!, was first broadcast on UPN on Thursdays to compete with WCW Thunder. UPN moved the show to Friday nights in the United States on September 9, 2005, because of low ratings in its original Thursday-night slot, and the show has retained its Friday night timeslot since moving to The CW. Upon its move to the "death slot," UPN/CW Friday nights have seen a substantial increase in ratings over UPN's movies and most of the WB's sitcoms. SmackDown! had also initially garnered even better ratings in the death slot than the ratings on its former Thursday-night airings (after the merging of WCW with WWE in 2001). Despite this, The CW chose to cancel Smackdown which will begin airing on MyNetworkTV in fall of 2008.
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