When Fox’s Cops premiered in 1989, there were original series on all of the Big 4 networks. By the turn of the century, only Fox and CBS were carrying first-run series, with NBC and ABC surrendering the night to movies. By the mid-2000s, every network but Fox had switched to a mix of series repeats/movies/newsmagazines. Fox held the court with veterans Cops and America’s Most Wanted until last May when it canceled AMW in favor of repeats. It has preempted Cops several times this season for sports coverage and, most recently, the Jennifer Lopez-Marc Anthony reality series Q’Viva! And there are a lot more pre-emptions on the horizon as Fox Sports will be taking over Saturday night in 28 of the next 32 weeks for NASCAR, MLB, NFL, college football and UFC coverage. In doing that, Fox joins ABC, which too has been airing sports programming on Saturday night for the past few years. Twenty four seasons in, Cops still is delivering decent numbers for Saturday night, an average of 1.2 18-49 rating which often is enough to top the night in the demo. But, instead of managing the decline, the network is looking for a franchise that it feels it could grow. Fox is not canceling Cops outright, instead cutting back the order for Season 25, whose time slot is TBD.
While inevitable, it is sad to see the network’s entertainment divisions throwing in the towel on Saturday, which once housed some of the best series on television. Consider the 1973 CBS Saturday lineup of All In The Family, M*A*S*H*, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart Show and Carol Burnett Show. Saturday’s rapid decline is even more puzzling as it continues to be the biggest night of television in most of Europe, including the U.K., where the biggest shows, currently The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent, go head-to-head on Saturday. In May, CBS announced a plan to reclaim the night with originals of Rules Of Engagement but that appeared to be just a place holder, and Rules was summoned to Thursdays when How To Be A Gentleman fizzled. These days, the only entertainment originals on Saturday are burnoffs, like Gentleman and NBC’s The Firm.