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'Good Wife,' Bad Time Slot
November 8, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Tuesday's New York Times includes an excellent Bill Carter story about the ramifications of CBS moving its drama The Good Wife from Tuesdays to Sundays this season, making it subject to East Coast time delays from pro football overruns. CBS executives say that, in getting the word out about the annoying time shifts, they're "doing about everything we can."

No, they're not. They're not doing the most obvious and important thing.

They're not moving The Good Wife away from Sundays...


Granted, there are only another few months of this problem, at which time the football season would be over and The Good Wife would run, reliably and on time, in its 9 p.m. ET Sunday time slot. But in the meantime, The Good Wife is losing both momentum and audience. According to the article, the series has averaged about 10.5 million viewers for its first six episodes this season, a drop of nearly 2 million viewers from last year's Tuesday average.

One of the CBS strategies for fixing this problem is to encourage viewers to double the recording time on their DVRs to handle the possible Sunday delayed broadcasts. Set your DVRs to record from 9-11 p.m. ET on Sundays, CBS suggests on its website. "That way, if The Good Wife is delayed 20 or 30 minutes, you will still get the whole show."

Great advice -- if this were, say, 1980. But just as TV sets are no longer made with vacuum tubes, broadcast network television itself, with all the variety of viewing alternatives available, no longer exists in a vacuum.


As an avid viewer of quality television, I'm more fortunate than most viewers of Sunday evening television. Some programs, I get in advance, so don't have to record. Also, my profession allows me special dispensation to receive both East and West Coast programming from the various broadcast networks. Plus, I have two TiVos -- one connected to cable, the other to DirecTV -- each capable of recording two programs at the same time.

Yet even with all that, it's all I can do to record everything I want to watch. (By the time I've seen all those Sunday shows, and caught up, it's usually Wednesday. But that's a different issue.) And if I took CBS's advice regarding The Good Wife, I'd have no chance in hell of catching everything in my personal TV recording net. And that's me: Mr. "ICTV4U"...

Most viewers, if they have a DVR attached to their satellite or cable system, are lucky if they can record two programs simultaneously, and don't have the luxury of broadcast TV time-shifting. So what does CBS's self-serving advice do to them?

This most recent Sunday, it would have given them a block that did, indeed, capture The Good Wife, along with -- depending upon their home city -- either all or half of the show that followed, CSI: Miami.


But at 9 p.m. ET, the official time slot of The Good Wife, other programs running at that hour included new episodes of AMC's The Walking Dead, HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Showtime's Dexter and even ABC's Desperate Housewives and the PBS Masterpiece drama Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy.

That last offering was a two-hour drama, also filling the 10 p.m. ET hour that CBS suggested Good Wife fans keep recording on CBS just in case. But also at that hour, there's Showtime's Homeland, HBO's Hung, and, if only for the curious, the premiere of AMC's Hell on Wheels.

That's just way too crowded a field -- especially for a serialized drama such as The Good Wife, which contains intricate shifts in personal relationships almost every week.

CBS, instead of doing what CBS executive Kelly Kahl calls "about everything we can" to support The Good Wife, should do everything, period. Move the show away from Sunday.

Where? Just about anywhere.


Swap it with Hawaii Five-O, which now runs at 10 p.m. ET Mondays. Or with Unforgettable, which now occupies its old Tuesday 10 p.m. ET slot. Or on Wednesdays, slide CSI: Crime Scene Investigation down to 9 p.m. ET, put The Good Wife in at 10, and move the much less watchable Criminal Minds from 9 p.m. Wednesdays to the same hour on Sundays.

Or, you could swap The Good Wife with Person of Interest on Thursdays. Fridays comes with its own problems for dramas with serialized stories -- if people have a life, and go out on Fridays (I've heard it happens), it's not a good way to build or maintain viewer loyalty. And Saturdays, until and unless the broadcast networks adopt an "If we build it, they will come" approach, is a rerun gulag.

But four nights out of seven would be better places for The Good Wife than where CBS has put it now. The program has won Emmys, snared a large audience and impressed critics by being a smart, entertaining series about the law and the people who practice it. But instead of rewarding The Good Wife for that, CBS has punished it, by putting it on Sundays and asking viewers to set its recorders, or adjust their viewing habits, more flexibly.

CBS is the party that needs to be the flexible one here. Make the good move -- and move The Good Wife.




Aiden C said:

Amen! And while they're at it they should rerun all the episodes that have been missed so we can catch up!

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 1:48 PM

J Meyer said:

We missed the ending of the first couple of episodes this season. Then I set my DVR for 90 minutes--and we still missed the ending of the third episode. We wound up purchasing a season pass on iTunes, because we were sick of missing the endings and we don't have space on our DVR to store two hours each week for one show.

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 1:53 PM

Mr. M said:

EXACTLY...!!! I have been saying the same thing since the switch to Sunday nights. This is ridiculous.

My wife has had the same issue while trying to watch the Amazing Race each Sunday but now it is effecting the whole evening's programming. Just to watch either show we have to basically record the entire Sunday night CBS lineup just to get a half-episode here and there and piece them all together. And also record CSI Miami just in case it ran over into that time slot. I don't care for CSI Miami at all but I need to give it a priority placement on my DVR just in case they're running long and the Good Wife continues in their timeslot.

It is funny that CBS even has to have a specific graphic along the bottom of the screen to indicate how late their shows are running. It just shows me that they have resigned themselves to that fact and are not going to do anything about it.

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 2:49 PM

Aaron Fuegi said:

Yeah, I've missed half of 3 of the last 4 episodes I believe. Like the show but hard to enjoy or follow with that happening.

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 3:54 PM

David said:

Yep, this is spot-on. I haven't seen a single episode of this season of the Good Wife despite plans to catch some episodes on demand. Moving to Sunday is a death sentence going against HBO, Showtime and AMC.

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 4:26 PM

Sean Dougherty said:

Not sure I see your problem. First of all, you buy one of the new TiVos that records four channels at a time, or even two of them. Second, most of the shows you mention are on several times a week. Worrying about the first run slot for Dexter or Walking Dead isn't a real problem - just record it when it's on again at 1:00 a.m. the next morning or something.

Comment posted on November 8, 2011 5:00 PM

Hugh said:

Amen, David! Is it blasphemy in this day and age to suggest that CBS (and Fox for that matter) alter the football schedule enough to keep the games from ending close to 8pm?! Further, advertisers can't be happy that a broadcast network is emploring people to DVR their programs, thereby surely cutting down the numbers of commercial views during the programs.

Comment posted on November 9, 2011 10:54 AM

Eileen said:

It's hard to understand whom CBS is trying to insult more: the audience or the cast & production staff of The Good Wife.

CBS & Sunday nights have always been the bane of my existence. I'm not a football fan, and I am furious each Sunday when I realize the game is still going strong at 7 pm when 60 Minutes SHOULD be coming on. It throws the whole evening off kilter.

This is even more so this season with America in Primetime starting at 8 pm on PBS. Even though 60 Minutes might be interviewing a guest or presenting a topic I'm anxious to see or hear about, my dial goes to PBS right before 8 pm. I don't even consider switching back to CBS any time during the evening. It's just too frustrating.

You have to wonder what is going on in the minds of tv programmers. Here they have a top notch, gold standard show, and they are driving viewers away in droves. When I heard about the time slot switch of The Good Wife last spring I was shocked. Remember the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Applies here very well.

CBS, what were you thinking??

[I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I don't think I did. - DB]

Comment posted on November 9, 2011 11:10 AM

SharonGS said:

Although I would certainly like CBS to move 'The Good Wife' to another night, I don't think the scheduling is the sole reason for the ratings decline. In my opinion, this season's episodes have suffered from subpar plotting and characterizations. The cases have been fairly interesting, but there is no longer any compelling subplot, e.g., the 'bad husband' in prison and campaigning. The politics of the State's Attorney's office and Grace's behavior are just annoying. There is no real tension about the consequences of the Alicia-Will affair. Both Eli Gold and Kalinda Sharma are still interesting, but both are either marginalized or used as comic relief. The characterization of Peter has lost all nuance as he plots against Alicia's firm with Cary whining at his side. At the very least, the writers need to send Grace to a boarding school (preferably on a mountaintop with no means of communication), give Eli a campaign to run, and put the legal focus back on Lockhart/Gardner. It would be even better if they'd reduce the number of quirky, female lawyers.

Comment posted on November 9, 2011 1:28 PM

Erin said:

I totally agree with the notion that CBS isn't doing The Good Wife (the only network drama to get an Emmy nod this year...I'm not counting Friday Night Lights since it aired on DirecTV) any favors. But this isn't a new problem. I recall Richard Dreyfuss complaining that his show "The Education of Max Bickford," which aired on CBS on Sundays about a decade ago, should be called "The Preemption of Max Bickford."

[That's funny. I never heard that -- but I totally agree. - DB]

Comment posted on November 9, 2011 9:01 PM
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