The TV Networks’ Comedy Depth Charts

depthchartsHow committed are your favorite TV networks to making you laugh? While some networks are happy to stick with a tried and true formula, others are being forced to experiment this season. What’s going on with the rise of the romantic sitcom? Who’s doubling down on family fare? Where should you look for your favorite canceled shows? We’ve examined the comedies the networks and cable have to offer this 2014-2015 TV season to see which network offers the most in quantity, which offers the most in quality, and who’s taking the biggest risks.

ABC

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Selfie Tues., 8 1 5.3 57
Manhattan Love Story Tues., 8:30 1 4.7 42
The Middle Weds., 8 6 7.5 71
The Goldbergs Weds., 8:30 2 7.2 52
Modern Family Weds., 9 6 11.18 87
Black-ish Weds., 9:30 1 9.66 77
Last Man Standing Fri., 8 4 6.6 33
Cristela Fri., 8:30 1 NA 72

The Alphabet is going in big on new comedies this season, with four starting this fall (Black-ish, Cristela, Selfie and Manhattan Love Story) and two more coming in January (Fresh Off the Boat and Galavant).

Tuesdays, ABC is gambling on two new shows aimed at woo-ing young, female viewers — Selfie and Manhattan Love Story — despite their weak track with shows aimed at non-family audiences (RIP Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B). The network’s Wednesday night block is all about families (poor ones, retro ones, modern ones, blackish ones). The network has never been able to find a completely suitable companion for critical and ratings-powerhouse Modern Family — now in both syndication and its sixth season — but they hope to do so with its new leadout, Black-ish. Luckily for them, Black-ish has opened to a great deal of critical success; Vulture calls it a “landmark” show. Also this season: Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing going to be paired on Friday nights with Cristela, a new show about a single woman and her extended family, from Latina standup comedian Cristela Alonzo. Did you know the word “Latina” means that Alonzo is both of Latin descent and female? A woman and a minority! That seems like a totally natural fit for whoever is watching Last Man Standing, a show about how hard it is to be a white male.

Starting in January, the mid-season replacements (what will they replace??) will swoop in with Fresh Off the Boat and Galavant. Fresh Off the Boat is based on chef Eddie Huang’s memoir about growing up the son of Taiwanese immigrants and stars Randall Park, aka Veep’s Danny Chung. Galavant is Once Upon a Time meets Once Upon a Time Two: Other Times meets Glee, or that remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston from the ’90s. It’s a fairy tale and a musical (your favorite!).

Verdict: ABC’s attempt to find the comedy-equivalent of female-focused programming like Scandal and Once Upon a Time seems with Selfie, Manhattan Love Story and later, Galavant, doesn’t seem like a promising move, but they’re betting big on Black-ish and their Wednesday night lineup for good reason. TGIW?

CBS

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
The Big Bang Theory Mon., 8/8:30 til 10/30,
then Thurs., 8
8 17 57
2 Broke Girls Mon., 8 4 8* 66
The Millers Mon., 8:30 2 10.9* 50
Mom Thurs., 8:30 2 8.34* 65
Two and a Half Men Thurs., 9 12 10.66* 67
The McCarthy’s Thurs., 9:30 1 NA NA
Mike & Molly Starting 2015 5 9.58* 63

*indicates ratings are from last season

CBS has been the top comedy (or anything else) network for a while, mostly thanks to its popularity with your (and my) mom and dad. Creatively, they may not break any barriers, but they’re still the most-watched jokes around. This year, the Eye is back with a mostly-returning slate and only one new comedy (The Millers — sorry, I mean Mac & Milly — sorry, I mean The McCarthys).

So what is new? Well, Mom’s characters might be down on their luck, but the show isn’t — starting October 30th, four generations of troubled ladies will follow the blockbuster Big Bang Theory. Plus Allison Janney won an Emmy, so it looks like Mom(a)’s doing fine, Mom(a)’s getting hot. In actual new shows, The McCarthys is about the gay son of an Irish American family who agrees to stay in his hometown after his basketball coach father names him as his number two. Sure. Most critics have yet to weigh in, but the Boston Globe says there is a “lot of spirit” (the show is set in Boston). However, the Washington Post gave it a “D” and not for defense.

Mike & Molly — the show that stars Melissa McCarthy but is not of her — won’t be back until January, when it will be joined by The Odd Couple, co-starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon as The Odd Couple. Perry has had comedies on ABC and NBC in the past four years, and they do say that the third time is the charm. And they say that three strikes and you are out. Also coming in 2015, CSI: Cyber, which is not a comedy no matter how much the word “Cyber” makes me giggle.

Verdict: CBS has no reason to change their formula — or their schedule, as this lineup illustrates. There’s little for serious comedy fans here, but what else would you expect from the Tiffany network?

NBC

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Marry Me Tues., 9 1 NA 73
About a Boy Tues., 9:30 2 8.6* 67
The Mysteries of Laura Weds., 8 1 9.72 37
Bad Judge Thurs., 9 1 5.84 38
A to Z Thurs., 9:30 1 4.69 66
Parks and Recreation Returning 2015 6 3.76* 59

*indicates ratings are from last season

NBC sees CBS’s Mike & Molly and ABC’s Manhattan Love Story, and raises them a Marry Me and an A to Z (and technically an About a Boy, since that’s based on a romcom). The Peacock kicks off the year with four out of five sitcoms brand new — perfect angel show Parks and Recreation isn’t back until 2015 — and half of these involve couples in luv. Marry Me and A to Z have both charmed critics, but A to Z hasn’t, as of yet, romanced audiences. The Mysteries of Laura has been panned across the board (so many “mess” puns on Debra’s name) — so naturally the first episode was a relatively big success, NBC-wise. Bad Judge isn’t really a hit with critics or audiences, but it was co-created by the bro novelist Chad Kultgen and 6 Days, 7 Nights star Anne Heche.

Starting in 2015, NBC has a roster of familiar faces ready to sub in anytime, coach. The Mr. of Mr. Robinson is The Office’s Craig, who stars with Jean Smart as a substitute teacher who wants to be a musician. Cute kids aren’t usually the best for comedy, but NBC’s had recent success with A Boy. Robinson’s ex-co-star Ellie Kemper will be back with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy Schmidt is a recently rescued cult member who’s taking on life in the big city, and her show is produced by none other than Tina Fey and her 30 Rock partner Robert Carlock. Mission Control stars Krysten Ritter as a NASA scientist and both of the goofy scientists from Better Off Ted. Finally: One Big Happy reunites Happy Endings’ Elisha Cuthbert with seventh friend (and Penny’s fiancée) Nick Zano, as a straight guy/gay lady best friend pair with a baby on the way.

Verdict: NBC really wants to make this RomSitCom thing happen, but at least they’ve brought in talent like Casey Wilson, Ken Marino, Ben Feldman, Cristina Milioti, and great supporting casts (Tim Meadows! Henry Zebrowski!) to do it. Maybe it’s time for comedy fans to fall in love.

Fox

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Bob’s Burgers Sun., 7:30 5 4.93* 54
The Simpsons Sun., 8 26 5.02* 79
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Sun., 8:30 2 3.31 70
Family Guy Sun., 9 13 6.06 53
Mulaney Sun., 9:30 1 2.34 38
Red Band Society Weds., 9 1 3.62 58
New Girl Tues., 9 4 2.58 66
The Mindy Project Tues., 9:30 3 2.37 69

*indicates ratings are from last season

In the past few years, Fox has become synonymous with comedy — partially because of that dominating animation, and partially because they’ve siphoned off much of NBC’s talent roster: Mindy, Andy, and now Mulaney. But is it working?

Fox’s live action comedy ratings are pretty lackluster. Mulaney is this season’s only new half-hour sitcom, and the reviews are almost as bad as the ratings. Maybe it will find its voice, fingers crossed? New dramedy Gley’s AnatogleeRed Band Society has done a little better with both critics and audiences, but not by an overwhelming margin. The broken up animated block has hung in there, kind of, but The Mindy Project and New Girl aren’t exactly burning up the airwaves but critics like Jeff Jensen from Entertainment Weekly are back on board — after the season opener, he said, “Whatever you did over the summer, New Girl, do it every week.” As for Mindy, audiences may not be that into her, but the other networks have taken notice: do you think all of the RomSitComs are Mad About You-inspired?

Verdict: Fox is relying heavily on their animated shows to boost their live action comedies this season, and are surprisingly short on new offerings. Maybe Mulaney will get a chance to find a voice that viewers will relate to, since Fox has shown patience will low-rated shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mindy that feature impressive talent, although at least those found an initial critical audience.

CW

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Jane the Virgin Mon., 9 1 NA NA
Whose Line Is It Anyways? Fri., 8 2/10 1.62 NA
Hart of Dixie Returning 2015 4 1.36 43

*indicates ratings are from last season

The CW’s comedies are basically non-existent — a couple of dramedies, and the rebooted Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The current season of Whose Line is either the tenth or the second, depending on how you look at it, and ratings have fallen from the first (or the ninth). Jane the Virgin hasn’t been reviewed by many critics yet, but the ones who do are fans. Hart of Dixie, the network’s other dramedy, will return for an abbreviated fourth season in 2015.

Verdict: When the CW finds a way to make hot dudes removing their shirts funny, we might see more from them. Til then? Not so much.

Comedy Central

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Tosh.0 Tuesdays, 10 6 1.7 NA
Brickleberry Tuesdays, 10:30 3 Unavailable NA
South Park Wednesdays, 10 18 2.2 62
Key and Peele Wednesdays, 10:30 4 .8 74
Adam Devine’s House Party Thursdays 12:30am 2 Unavailable NA
Gabriel Igelesias’ Stand-Up Revolution Fridays, 12am 2 Unavailable NA

Comedy Central’s fall lineup is missing a lot of your friends. Luckily, Key and Peele and South Park are still going strong, and Kroll Show, Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City will all be back in 2015. For now, the network is focusing on their afterhours fare, with standup series from Adam Devine and Gabriel Igelesias, and on college boy basics like Tosh.0 and Brickleberry.

Verdict: Comedy is still Comedy Central’s game, but most of their best shows are on hiatus at the moment. We’ll laugh again next year.

IFC

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Comedy Bang! Bang! Fridays, 11 3 Unavailable NA
The Birthday Boys Fridays, 11:30 2 Unavailable 76

While it hasn’t built a whole network around comedy (like FX) or branded itself as “Very Funny” (like TBS), IFC has quietly become a serious player in comedy scene with shows like Garkfunkel and Oates, Maron, Portlandia, The Birthday Boys and Comedy Bang! Bang! The final two are back this fall, making your Friday nights super weird, in a good way. Plus, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret will be back in 2015.

Verdict: Who knew independent film was so funny?

FXX

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
The League Wednesdays, 10 6 .54 54
Ali G Rezurection Wednesdays, 10:30 1 Unavailable 60

FX created a whole separate network for their comedies, but right now there isn’t a very much new on it. Summer series Married and You’re the Worst both aired on regular FX and are over for the year, and one of the two “new” shows currently on air are actually just reruns of Da Ali G Show that never aired stateside. But The League is back! Plus, you can always watch Parks and Rec reruns.

Verdict: To justify the creation of an entire comedy network, it would be cool if FXX created some more comedies.

Adult Swim

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings this season (in million viewers) Metacritic Score (out of a possible 100)
The Boondocks Mondays, 10:30 4 2.73 72
Robot Chicken Sundays, 11:30 7 2.03 NA
Black Jesus Thursdays, 11 1 1.9 73
Loiter Squad Thursdays, 12am 3 1.88 NA
Rick & Morty Mondays, 10:30 1 1.8 85
Mike Tyson Mysteries Mondays, 10:30 1 NA NA
Black Dynamite Saturdays, 10:30pm 2 Unavailable NA
Mr. Pickles Sundays, 12am 1 1.55 NA
Newsreaders Thursdays, 12am 2 1.56* NA
The Eric Andrè Show Thursdays, 12:15am 3 1.03* NA

Adult Swim is back with a full, slightly confusing-to-me schedule of critically acclaimed or critically ignored shows. Seemingly, there is no middle ground for the network — if critics watch a show, they love it, but they don’t review most of it. Still, for a baby network that lives inside of another network and features oddly-timed programming aimed at a niche audience (people with access to and interest in mushrooms, I guess?), they hold strong. Boondocks is incisive and witty as hell, Black Jesus — from the same creators — is lauded as “disarmingly funny”, and Eric Andrè is still consistently EricAndrèsian, which will someday be a adjective like Kafkaesque. Whatever it means, it’s a compliment.

Coming on October 27th: Mike Tyson Mysteries, where the former boxer solves mysteries. Sounds fun! I’m so glad Mike Tyson had that experimental surgery that removed his Being A Rapist, so that we call enjoy his new cartoon series without feeling totally inappropriate and uncomfortable.

Returning soon: a second season for Newsreaders and a third for The Eric Andrè Show.

The Verdict: Adult Swim is very, very dedicated to making you laugh, especially if you are a college freshmale with an affinity for drugs with cute names and terrible side effects.

USA

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Benched Tues., 10:30 1 NA NA
Sirens Returning 2015 2 1.33* 61

*indicates ratings are from last season

The place where characters are welcome only welcomes one new comedy this fall: Benched, a new comedy starring Happy Endings’ Eliza Coupe and co-created by Michaela Watkins. The show premieres October 28th, and it hasn’t been reviewed yet, but hey: those are cool ladies. Of the two other 2014 shows — Sirens and Playing House — only Sirens has been definitely renewed for season two.

Verdict: For years, their dramedy game has been some of the most successful in the business (Psych regularly pulled in more viewers then say, Mindy currently commands), but their attempts at half-hour shows haven’t gotten the same traction. Benched will be paired with breakout reality hit (and arguable sitcom) Chrisley Knows Best instead of another traditional sitcom, but if it’s able to hold viewers, maybe USA will stop taking their entry into the sitcom business step-by-step.

TBS

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Cougar Town Returning in 2015 6 1.47* 51
Ground Floor Tues., 10 2 1.48* 63
American Dad! Mon., 9 11 5.24 41

*indicates ratings are from last season

The “Very Funny” network offers mostly Big Bang Theory reruns right now (just all day and also all night), but their original programming is slated to return starting in December. Sullivan & Son wrapped up its third and possibly last season in September, but Bill Lawrence’s two shows, Cougar Town and Ground Floor, are back for more this winter. Ground Floor has received a relatively warm reaction from critics, and Cougar Town is wrapping up after six seasons across two networks. Also on TBS now — with new episodes! — American Dad!

Verdict: Networks, check your pockets! If you drop something, TBS is bound to pick it up. Between Conan, Cougar Town and now American Dad!, the former superstation is something of a vulture. Bringing in shows (or at least talent) with a built-in audience has paid off fairly well for the network. Nothing we love ever has to die! And American Dad! too!

HBO

Show Timeslot Season Average Ratings
(in million viewers)
Metacritic Score
(out of a possible 100)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Sun., 11 1 .9 76
The Comeback Sun., 10 2 NA 58
Getting On Sun., 10:30 2 Unavailable 72
Real Time with Bill Maher Fri., 10 12 Unavailable 43

I do need to see that! The Comeback is coming back to HBO this November, with Valerie and Mickey and Juna and all our friends (not those Friends) after a nine-year hiatus. Although the show suffered from low ratings and nobody getting it during its original run, its cult status qualified it for a limited return. Getting On is also back for a second season, thanks to its critical success.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver debuted in April and the show gets more and more incisive every week, uncovering stories that some people (me, at least) would have never known about and then covering them hilariously. Payday loans seem really bad, guys! Also, did you remember that Real Time with Bill Maher was a show until that Affleck debate? I did not, but if — every week from now – Bill Maher can get into a fight with a major movie star who has a super highly anticipated movie coming out that very week and the movie star is right and Bill Maher seems racist, then that show would be golden. Maybe he can have John Oliver on and John Oliver can tell him a bunch of things he doesn’t know? I would watch that if Bill Maher weren’t there. Oh wait.

Verdict: Bringing back cult hit like The Comeback is a canny move for the network, but it’s somewhat surprising there aren’t more new offerings on the lineup — there’s usually at least one Chris Lilley show going on at any given time. Girls and Veep won’t be back until 2015, so for now we’ll just have to visit with our old friends Valerie Cherish and the nursing home shut-ins. We want more, HBO!

Meredith Haggerty is a writer and editor in Brooklyn.

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