This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.
Friday Night Death Slot
Marty: Hey, why don't we just watch some good old fashioned network TV? Larry: ON FRIDAY NIGHT???!!!??? Bleeeeeeck! —The Neighbors after the series was moved from Wednesday to Friday Nights.
The infamous Friday Night Death Slot is the television equivalent of ritual seppuku in North America. note In Israel (where the weekend is Friday and Saturday and Sunday is a working day), the UK, and Norway, the very best shows are often reserved for Friday nights. This is particularly true of Channel Four comedies in the UK - the likes of Peep Show and The IT Crowd are always aired on Fridays. Viewers, especially those in certain coveted demographics like 18-34 year-olds, just don't watch as much TV on Fridays as on other nights because they're doing other things: hitting the bars, going to a sporting event, seeing a movie (see below for why this is especially relevant), or hanging out with friends. Compounding this, the Friday prime-time slot is especially likely to get pre-empted by events like Big Games or Award Shows on local affiliates. Scheduling a show on a Friday - especially early in the evening, such as 8 PM Eastern - is the kiss of death. This goes double if the show isn't family friendly, as folks with kids are more likely to stay home on the weekend, or hasn't developed a loyal following. And triple if it's on Fox. Or produced by Tim Minear. Or on Fox.
Fridays are thus often reserved for relatively cheap-to-produce content that doesn't require a lot of continuity to understand. That used to mean lots of mid-level half-hour sitcoms (see: The WB's past Friday lineup as well as ABC's 90s TGIF block), reruns, movie airings, shows that the network is neglecting (see: Screwed by the Network), and in recent years a lot of Reality Shows. Sometimes a network will fill an especially moribund slot with a No Hoper Repeat of a popular show from a different night.
The good news for shows on Friday is that expectations are low and shows can get away with ratings that would get them cancelled on any other weekday. The bad news is that Friday shows often struggle to meet even that lowered bar and have a high turnover rate. A show surviving in a Friday slot is greeted with surprise; when a show is moved to one, Genre Savvy fans worry that the network has turned against it. When a show starts in a Friday slot, and not as a "sneak preview" or "special viewing event", it's pretty much assumed to be doomed.
The opposite of this trope is a Thursday primetime slot, often awarded to the most coveted TV programming. Advertisers realize that American consumers do the majority of their shopping on the weekends, and often on Friday after work. This means that advertisers are desperate to get their product on the airwaves on Thursday so that it's still on people's minds when they go to the stores on Friday. The better the advertising rates for a timeslot, the more effort goes into the content for that slot.
A relatively recent development is the vertical integration brought about by the mergers of the 90s and 00s; this means that the networks' parent MegaCorps now covet that Thursday night advertising for movies from their affiliated film studios that will be released...on Friday. Thus, the networks are forced to maintain a weak Friday lineup to ensure strong box office numbers. All six major American networks now have studio relationships:
ABC - Owned by Disney, which heavily promotes its Friday night Disney Channel programming for children and families, so ABC's former TGIF comedy block has been shelved.note Although in 2012 ABC did decide to push a couple of family-friendly sitcoms in the 8:00 hour; Tim Allen's Last Man Standing and Reba McEntire's Malibu Country. LMS still does fairly well and was recently renewed for a fourth season. Malibu Country - not so much.
CBS - Controlled by National Amusements, which also controls Paramount Pictures, and now has their own studio in CBS Films. Since CBS spun off Viacom in 2006, however, they don't hew to the FNDS concept as closely as the other three networks.
The CW - Gets it both ways; two owners, two different studios. CBS owns 50%, while Warner Bros. has the other half.
NBC - The latest network to acquire a studio relationship after the network's 2004 purchase of Universal Pictures. Telemundo is also a NBC network, but the sheer audience loyalty to its primetime telenovelas keeps it competitive on Friday nights.
The US version of the Game ShowDuel was originally a series of specials that ran on weekdays during prime time (similar to the initial run of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire??) with a finale on a Sunday night. Its second season ran on Friday nights at 8:00 PM. The ratings numbers halved, and ABC canceled it.
For one-and-a-half years, The Greatest American Hero built up a reasonably good audience and rating on Wednesday nights. For its third season, ABC threw it and another Steven J. Cannell show, The Quest, away via a Friday timeslot, not even airing the show's last four episodes.
Happy Endings was moved to this slot in its third season. Within a week of the move becoming official, it was reported the producers have been shopping around for a new network to air the show in the event that ABC cancels it. However, the ratings, already unacceptable by just about any broadcast standard, dropped to such microscopic levels that when ABC did cancel it, no one would touch it (despite supposed interest from USA Network).
Despite critical raves and an audience whose demographics would have today guaranteed its survival, ABC did everything they could to kill Max Headroom, the alleged reason being that the show's Biting-the-Hand Humor infuriated the network executives and advertisers. When putting it against Dallas and Miami Vice failed, they shuffled it into the Death Slot, which worked. The circumstances behind the show's cancellation are still seen as scandalous by science-fiction fans.
The second season of The Mole played this straight and averted it. The show not only got the Friday Night Death Slot, it aired only two weeks after 9/11, a time when most people were decidedly not in the mood to watch a cutthroat reality show. Three episodes of bad ratings later, the show was put on hiatus by ABC, and didn't re-air until the following summer, where it competed in its time slot against the first season of American Idol. Only due to good word of mouth and a loyal fan base was the show not completely crushed.
The Names The Same, a Game Show that held a 7:30 Monday slot since it was Uncanceled in October 1954. It moved on June 28, 1955 (after its third host change in less than a year) to Tuesdays at 10:00, then on September 16 shifted to Fridays at 10:00. The series was canned on October 7, after just four episodes at that slot.
Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place got this slot. However, unlike a lot of these examples, it wasn't moved to the spot because the network wanted to get rid of it. It was moved because it had proven to be quite popular in its Wednesday night slot and ABC thought the show's popularity would move with it and break the curse of the Friday night death slot. It didn't.
In 2011, former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi premiered a new reality/competition series for aspiring songwriters on Monday nights, called Platinum Hit. Midway through the series, amid low ratings and with little advance warning, Bravo threw in the towel — and moved the series to 8pm Fridays, where it quietly finished its run.
Joan of Arcadia, despite surviving longer than Wonderfalls, got the boot not long after, failing to be renewed for a third season even though it was relatively popular and critically-acclaimed. Aired at 8 PM Fridays on CBS.
Moonlight is an especially weird case, as it was getting a good 8 million viewers on its Friday slot when CBS cancelled it. And it was cancelled just before a certain novel by Stephenie Meyer triggered the massive vampire fad. CBS must still be kicking themselves.
In 1999, a very well-acted, well-produced modern update of The Six Million Dollar Man debuted on CBS. The show was titled Now and Again, and featured an intricate and tightly-woven running premise, stellar acting by Eric Close and Dennis Haysbert, Kim Chan as one of the most surreal sociopaths in TV history, and cameos by the likes of John Goodman and Mick Foley. It was an intelligent, thought-provoking show, which downplayed the premise's gimmick in favor of more real, dramatic interactions between the major characters. ...but its timeslot was 9pm on Friday, with absolutely no lead-in to speak of, and the network cut back on promoting it in the second half of the season (to the point where some viewers had no idea new episodes were airing). It faded away with little fanfare after one season and would only surface years later in repeats on SyFy.
Family Net put airings of The Color Honeymooners as the lead-in to their Friday-night line-up (airing at 5 PM Eastern/4 PM Central, as Family Net considers that time slot as the start of prime time for them) starting in March 2010. Family Net dropped it in August in favor of Landmarks and The Greats, two really obscure docmentary shows that were about to be taken out of the channel altogether. This duo was replaced in September with additional showings of The New Flipper. That show, in turn, was dropped in October for Chuck Norris' World Combat League.
FOX is often referred to as one of the chief instigators of this trope, as they maintain a reputation for moving promising shows to the "death slot" in the middle of their season, causing ratings to plummet.
The disproportionate number of shows moved to the Friday timeslot and being cancelled by the network is even referenced in the opening speech from Family Guy's first episode after being Un-Canceled. Peter Griffin calls out a large number of shows that were canned, many of which aired on Fridays.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. creator Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer of LOST) specifically blames this for the show's demise. However, this is a strange example - the pilot movie was so popular, the network actually ordered additional episodes. Cuse blames the flawed ratings system for incorrectly counting the show's fans, and unfortunately since it aired in the era before DVD releases gave a better gauge of popularity, it couldn't be revived.
Alien Nation got through a single season before it was canceled by FOX, though it wasn't caused by their Friday timeslot so much as it was the network's lack of funds from advertising revenue, causing them to axe all of their dramatic shows.
Boston Public was moved to a Friday timeslot for its fourth season, and was quickly canceled mid-season, leaving two unaired episodes left to debut in reruns on cable.
Dark Angel made Jessica Alba a minor star and had good ratings. Then Fox moved it to Fridays. When they canned it, they replaced it with Firefly. Alba fans were not pleased.
Eliza Dushku had a contract with Fox, and so she brought Joss Whedon back to Fox (after the latter claimed he wouldn't produce anything for the network again) for Dollhouse, which aired 2009-2010 on Fridays. Despite poor ratings, Fox renewed it for a second season (still on Fridays), although it was canceled fairly early in its second run due to the already low ratings declining further.
Despite having a large number of well-known character and a fast-paced narrative, the action/drama series Fastlane was canceled midway through its Friday run due to skyrocketing costs for each episode (more than $2.6 million per episode)., and ended on a cliffhanger.
Though a number of factors combined to kill it in just 14 episodes (only 11 of which were ever actually aired, in the wrong order), part of the reason Firefly got canceled by Fox was because it was in the 8 PM (Eastern) Friday slot, failing to attract the more adult audience at which it was aimed and being constantly preempted by sports broadcasts to boot. Its success in the 7 PM Friday slot on cable years later is usually considered ironic. Creator Joss Whedon now reportedly refuses to work with the network ever again precisely because of how badly they burned him with Firefly. Of course, producer Tim Minear didn't even allegedly vow such a thing, but in light of other shows of his that have aired on the network including the next listing, probably should have.
Freaky Links was a paranormal drama where a man ran his own website, which chronicled strange urban legends and the circumstances behind his brother's death. The show began airing on Fridays, and was canceled midway through the season due to low ratings.
Fringe is one of the few series that survived the move to the Death Slot. Moved there in the middle of its third season from a prime Thursday night slot, the show continued to retain a core set of dedicated viewers passionate about the show. As the show was written with a definitive end, the vigor of the fans and that of FOX's Kevin Reilly (vice president at programming at the time) helped to ensure the show completed its story even with a shortened 5th season, reaching the magic number of 100 episodes for syndication rights.
After The X-Files got moved to a more prominent timeslot, the Friday slot of death got taken by its spin-off The Lone Gunmen... who got the usual treatment from FOX.
After being renewed for a second season, Touch was moved to a Friday night slot and intended to air its season premiere in October 2012. The premiere was then pushed to February of the next year, and coupled with the weak timeslot and next-to-no advertising, the show died a quick death.
Wonderfalls. Three of its first (and only) four weeks on FOX, it was slotted in the 8 PM Friday slot. It wasn't as family-friendly as its competitor, Joan of Arcadia, was and died fast. However, it did well on cable as well, when GLBT-friendly Logo aired it.
Also canceled via an 8 PM Friday slot, despite initially high ratings due to (undue) controversy about it: The Book Of Daniel, a series about an Episcopalian priest whose family is having troubles and who apparently has hallucinations (we think) of speaking to a laid-back Jesus. Oh, and an addiction to painkillers. Yeah, that went over real well with the church-going audience. Some of the network's local affiliates (most notably WSMV in Nashville, Tennessee and KARK in Little Rock, Arkansas) refused to even air the series and only about four of its eight episodes were aired on TV at all, and three others were dumped onto NBC.com to languish in obscurity before everyone forgot it even existed.
Chuck, a fan-favorite which constantly wavered back and forth on the edge of cancellation each year since the '07-'08 Writer's Strike, received this treatment for its final (2011-12) season, along with a 13-episode order. However, it was justified by executives as being done only because the fan campaign that saved it (during its third season) didn't translate into viewers.
Raines, a surprisingly good, somewhat subversive, more than a little weird Police Procedural about a homicide detective who may or may not be seeing the ghosts of his latest assignments. The show was bumped from a prime Thursday night slot to Fridays at 9:00 Eastern after just two episodes. It quickly dropped from the #23 highest-ranked show to #63 and only five more episodes were aired before it was quietly cancelled. Despite being put next to Las Vegas in the lineup. Of course, it was also a midseason replacement, which never really bodes well for a series' longevity.
The return of Smash quickly circled the ratings drain in Season 2, so NBC announced in March 2013 that the remaining episodes would air on Saturdays rather than Tuesdays starting in April. The Onion's A.V. Club joked that the announcement not admitting that the show would be cancelled - and it was, come that May - was the television equivalent of parents claiming their kid's dog is being sent off to a farm to live out its days when it's actually being put to sleep.
Star Trek: The Original Series survived being moved to an 8:30 Friday night timeslot for its second season thanks to a letter-writing campaign, but could not survive being moved to 10:00 on Fridays for its third season, where its slashed budget (due to lower ad rates and higher salaries for the stars) prompted the departures of most of the series' writers. Gene Roddenberry resigning as line producer, since he could see the writing on the wall. Its success in syndication would leave NBC regretting losing such a Cash Cow Franchise, which due to mergers and acquisitions is now owned by rival CBS (with Paramount Pictures retaining film rights).
Odyssey 5 was moved from Sundays (where it pulled in the best ratings in the network's history up to that point) to Fridays, where ratings dropped immediately and the show was canceled with six episodes left (the last episodes were burned off two years later).
Star Trek: Enterprise caught a double whammy: moved to the Death Slot during its and its network's final season. It was very well-known among a subset of Trek fans that the only reason it had gained a fourth season in the first place was to get enough episodes for syndication. Then, the show started to drastically improve in quality, bringing some fans some hope that there might be a Season 5. Those hopes were dashed when the Death Slot took away any improved ratings it might have garnered from the improved quality.
British channel E4 trumpets Thursday nights as its strongest night of the week, using it for premieres and first showings of imported American sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and New Girl. Coincidentally the ad breaks are chocca with movie trailers. Fridays, by comparison, are a bit weak.
The Tom Bergeron-era episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos initially aired on Friday nights on ABC, but apparently did well enough for the show to be moved back to its old Sundays at 7 p.m. timeslot. It's thrived there ever since. Given that the show was effectively treated as cheap filler by the network after Bob Saget left, the fact that its comeback came in a death slot is extremely impressive!
Disney Channel's A.N.T. Farm has aired every new episode on a Friday including the pilot. As a result, it became popular and pulled in good enough ratings to be renewed.
Cartoon Network averted this for many years, since "Cartoon Cartoon Fridays" was, during the heyday of their first wave of original programming (when The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, et al were really taking off), pretty much their premier night of programming for the week. Toonami featured on Saturday nights in its later years, and before they really started to neuter that block, it was another very strong night of programming on a night avoided by most networks.
The success of "Cartoon Cartoon Fridays" and Toonami was partially because of when they aired. Kids don't have school the next day, and in many cases, parents take their kids out to eat dinner at pizza restaurants and the like. And guess which channel many pizza chains show on their big screen televisions to keep the kiddies entertained?
On the other hand, Gundam SEED played this trope straight when it got shoved to a super-late/early morning Friday/Saturday slot following poor ratings on Toonami, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be moving to Disney XD in 2013, due to Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. In exchange, however, the death slot version had fewer edits, with the final two episodes being nearly uncut.
After being renewed for a fourth season of only 13 episodes, Community was moved to 8:30 on Fridays in what was presumed to be its final season. Along with the studio-mandated ouster of series creator/showrunner Dan Harmon and several other prominent staff quitting, the resulting fan backlash may have been what motivated NBC to push Community's premiere into 2013 with a more favorable Thursday night slot and eventually renew it for a 5th season (along with the return of Harmon).
Degrassi. In seasons 10 and 12 in the U.S., it came on on Fridays at 10 PM and did reasonably well.
Friday Night Lights, which from the beginning had fans saying that given the title, airing on Fridays seemed completely natural for it rather than its original Wednesday slot. Starting in the second season it did run on Fridays, which was met with widespread approval (plus a wonderful Narm-y tagline: "''Friday Night Lights'', finally on Fridays! This Friday on NBC.") Despite low ratings for its entire run, the show ran its full five seasons (albeit on DirecTV for the latter two).
Still could be a strange choice for time slot; a series about High School football is being aired in a timeslot when those most interested in the subject matter can't watch it because they're at their own team's game. Just timing the release of new episodes so they don't fall during HS football season solves this problem, though. Unless you're watching on DirecTV and get the episodes early...
Fringe was bumped by (FOX) to Friday nights in its third season to make way for American Idol. To the surprise of everyone and despite lower ratings, it was still renewed for two more seasons (though the fifth was a shorter 13-episode final season), ostensibly to let it reach 100 episodes for a syndication deal and complete the story arc.
Grimm on NBC, which started in the Death Slot but moved to Mondays for its second season, then back to Fridays, again. It is still doing moderately well for an NBC show, even with the timeslot.
Season 2 of the Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing was moved to Fridays from the original Tuesday slot, but the ratings improved from the tail end of Season 1 and stayed stable. ABC ordered five more episodes for Season 2 (bringing the total to 18) and later renewed the show for a third season. Having a lead that appeals to families (an audience ABC has thrived with on Fridays) helps.
The Australian version of The Late Show (think Saturday Night LiveWITH NO BUDGET) - it was put on at 9.00 on a Saturday, where most of its intended audience would have gone out. However, it became very popular with parents who had to stay home to look after their children, and so lasted three years.
Carlton Cuse averted the Friday night curse with Nash Bridges. It was a hit on Friday nights and lasted for five seasons.
Nickelodeon has seen several of its shows flourish in Friday timeslots, largely due to its teen-oriented subject matter:
iCarly, when it aired most of the second half of Season 3 in that slot. Its popularity made it an aversion with high ratings.
After SNICK was re-vamped into "SNICK House", KaBlam! got removed from its Saturday night timeslot to Friday at eight. Though seeing as how it was a kids' show, and Friday was one of the few nights where kids often got a chance to stay up late, a kids show airing on Fridays is probably the best you could do for it.
The Legend of Korra suffered from this. Book 2 saw lower ratings than most of Book 1 (nearly half its audience), and the biggest difference was a time shift from Saturday morning to Friday night. Its Periphery Demographic of college students and adults may not have been willing to follow it to the new slot. However, they eventually averted cancellation when the ratings stabilized.
Book 3 suffered from both this and a lack of marketing. It's been suggested that a Short Run In Peru leak of several episodes caused the season to be aired earlier than it was supposed to. The ratings have just gotten worse, and the show has been taken off the air and essentially become a web show, the rest of the Book 3 episodes now being dumped on Nick's official site.
Nikita (from The CW) held this slot from its second season onward. However, it did well enough to last through four seasons before ending.
The Sci-Fi channel (before it changed to Syfy) averted this for many years, via Friday night blocks of strong original programming that provided some of the network's best ratings all week. Targeting a niche market known more for cultlike devotion than active social lives—i.e., nerds—may have helped the network develop an audience willing to put its favorite shows ahead of other potential Friday night activities.
Stargate SG-1 held the Friday at 8 PM slot for most of its run, and the Friday night shows (SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined)) came to be known as the Power Block. In fact, when both Atlantis and Galactica'' were moved from their Friday timeslots, fans complained that they wouldn't get as many viewers.
The block went through a slump when the network separated SG-1 and Galactica, canceled the former, moved the latter to Sundays, gaveDoctor Who away to BBC America, and built as much fan animosity as when they canceled Farscape. Sci-Fi Friday has since recovered with the highly-rated Eureka and UnCancellation of Merlin.
WWE Friday Night Smackdown was a very successful aversion, to such a point where episodes had bumpers bragging about how viewed their show is, and an advertising campaign talking about how they're "changing Friday nights". When it moved back to Syfy after being on MyNetworkTV and failing to hit the same numbers, it became an aversion once more: it remains one of SyFy's most popular shows, much to the chagrin of the audience that liked it better when Friday was reserved for actual science fiction.
In one of the biggest aversions of this trope (and therefore a pretty biting case of irony), The X-Files (the "little" show that debuted in the 9 PM timeslot after Brisco County Jr.) went on to enjoy massive success. During the three seasons it aired on Friday night, the pre-X-Files timeslot became an elephants' graveyard of failed speculative fiction shows, such as Brisco County, VR 5, Strange Luck, M.A.N.T.I.S., and Sliders (only Sliders made it to a second season), baffling FOX execs and no doubt informing their future decisions on Friday night sci-fi shows.