Fun With Time Slots

Fox has announced its fall schedule (also its mid-season schedule, but they do that every year and every year, the announcement bears little resemblance to what the schedule winds up being). Apart from the over-exploitation of So You Think You Can Dance, which will start in the fall and have three hours devoted to it — two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday — and the decision to move Fringe to the more challenging Thursday time slot, the big news is that the renewed Dollhouse will continue on Fridays but its lead-in, Sarah Connor Chronicles, has been canceled. (Its ratings, Fox said, were trending in the wrong direction, and it was so expensive to produce that it couldn’t be saved with a Dollhouse-style budget cut.) Instead it will follow Fox’s only two half-hour comedies for the fall of 2009: the new show Brothers, starring Michael Strahan, the latest in a long line of NFL players trying their hand at TV, and the ironically unkillable ‘Til Death.

It’s a bizarre schedule, but since Dollhouse depends so heavily on DVR and online viewers — that is, people who don’t watch whatever comes before it on the network — the lead-in doesn’t matter as much as it otherwise would. Still, all in all, it’s an example of the downside of broadcasting only two hours a night, the way Fox does and the way NBC soon will, sort of (by turning over the 10 p.m. slot to Jay Leno). The upside is that there are fewer slots to fill and therefore fewer flops. The downside is that there is hardly anywhere to put a struggling drama; with no 10 o’clock slot, and with the 9 o’clock slots on any other night too valuable to be wasted on a low-rated show, a show like Dollhouse cannot really go anywhere except 9 p.m. on Fridays.