Mid-season excitement for Lost, Idol

Little in the way of replacement programming for this winter, but big returns for fan favourites like 24, Idol and Lost will drum up excitement - and hopefully eyeballs - for the big nets.

While it may not be the biggest mid-season for replacements in winter television history, there is plenty of excitement for returning shows filled with new angles and last-season excitement.

MiC caught up with two broadcast experts in the Canadian mediaverse this week to see what they thought was hot – and not – in the winter programming schedule for 2010.

‘This fall was great for new and returning programs,’ Kim Osborne, group director, broadcast, PHD Toronto, tells MiC. ‘There were very few cancellations so there is little room for mid-season replacements. Therefore the new programs have great potential to last within the limited time periods available, because they are surrounded by solid programs.’

The big news in returning programming was this week’s start of American Idol season 9, which started with its biggest audience premiere ever, according to the network. It’s a show that Florence Ng, VP broadcast investments, Zenith Optimedia, thinks is likely to drum up some of the most excitement this year – although she admits that it depends entirely on the talent the show assembles. However, celebrity judges and the last season of Simon Cowell’s on-air involvement mean that there is extra excitement in the air this year. Add in the show’s general popularity, and it will probably do well, she adds. ‘I think that although every single year viewership is down, it’s still their number-one show.’

The return of CTV’s Lost, in its sixth and final season starting Feb. 2, is more big news for TV, and although it has a niche audience, Ng says, it is definitely dedicated and the last-season hype should assure the fan base tunes in.

It’s a sentiment that Osborne agrees with: ‘Diehard fans having been waiting for a long time for Lost to return and wrap up all of the storylines,’ she says, adding that 24‘s season-eight return to Global on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. is also a hard-core fan pleaser, and now has a new location to bump up the adrenaline.

As for new programming, Osborne likes CTV’s Human Target, premiering tonight, as a ‘great replacement’ for Flashpoint (although it will be moving to Mondays at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 18, so therefore will not be a direct replacement going forward.) Ng, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as sure of Human Target, noting that the plot seems a bit derivative. However, she says, if the main characters generate that oh-so-valuable likeability, it could do well in the slot. Both think Mark Burnett’s new show, Shark Tank (which debuted Jan. 8 on Global) has a shot, even though it was put in the death-knell Friday-night slot.

‘With Dragon’s Den garnering solid ratings on CBC, Shark Tank has the potential to attract the same audience and pull good ratings,’ says Osborne.

Ng says she was surprised at the strength of Shark Tank’s debut, saying that it did well for a Friday-night premiere, and that she was surprised to see the numbers reveal that more 18- to 34-year-olds tuned in than in the older demo. ‘The key thing right now is whether they’re able to maintain that,’ she says. ‘I know that as of last Friday, a lot of the other shows were not back, and that was probably the reason that the numbers were higher than I thought a Friday-night show would do.’

Overall though, Ng says, she was a bit underwhelmed by the mid-season replacements offered up this year. ‘I don’t’ see anything that really stands out, that makes me say, ‘oh wow, that is going to be a winner.”