“Protect our young” seems to be the broadcast networks’ motto Upfronts2014_badge__140505214755in making the fall schedules this year. Besides ABC’s new comedies Selfie and Manhattan Love Story, which are being thrown to the wolves at 8 PM on Tuesday, there are virtually no new series that are not protected by an established lead-in, something that traditionally has been CBS’ scheduling M.O. That is, of course, if they were not designed to work as 8 PM shows, like two new comic book-based series, Fox’s Batman prequel Gotham and the Mysteries Of Laura NBC Debra MessingCW’s The Flash; NBC’s light procedural The Mysteries Of Laura; and Fox’s reality series Utopia. Observers note how conservative all the broadcast networks have been this year, with a lot of stability and not many shake-ups. The CW left three of five nights intact. There is not a single nightly lineup of all-new series on any network next fall. Because of that, there are fewer big schedule showdowns next season. We break down the top matchups below the grid:

Networks Play It Safe, Lead-Ins Rule On 2014 Fall Schedule: Full Grid & Top Face-Offs
Upfronts 2014: Comedy Sputters, Diversity & Adaptations Flourish; Other Trends, Oddities

Primetime TV Schedule 2014

scandal-season-finaleThe biggest one, that has industry types salivating, is still hypothetical — ABC’s hot, soapy DC drama Scandal going against NBC’s breakout The Blacklist at 9 PM on Thursday. It is hypothetical, because Blacklist is slated to move from Monday to Thursday in February. A lot could happen between May and February — that’s why few midseason scheduling scenarios announced at the upfronts ever materialized. Who knows how The Blacklist’s Monday replacement, new drama State of Affairs, will do? Nevertheless, a potential Olivia Pope-Red Reddington face-off has high drama written all over it at 9 PM on Thursdays.

Utopia-LogoJohn de Mol vs. John de Mol Tuesday 8 PM — John de Mol’s hit NBC singing competition The Voice will take on de Mol’s latest format, social experiment Utopia. Fox’s Utopia will face an uphill battle as it goes against both The Voice and CBS’ juggernaut NCIS.

ScorpionScorpion vs. Sleepy Hollow Monday 9 PM: One of last fall’s breakouts, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, is now the incumbent, with another drama featuring action and humor, CBS’ Scorpion, whose pilot tested very high, as the upstart.

Castle vs. NCIS: Los Angeles Monday 10 PM:  The battle of the veteran procedurals. Castle already faced a test this season when it had to take on hot newbie The Blacklist. Now the competition in the Monday 10 PM slot is shaping up to be the toughest in any 10 PM slot, with some of the highest-rated dramas series on their respective networks: NBC’s The Blacklist, CBS’ NCIS: LA and ABC’s Castle — going at each other.

The Originals vs. Supernatural vs. Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. — At the same time last year, some were already writing The Originals‘ obit as the rookie Vampire Diaries spinoff had been scheduled against ABC’s Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. at 8 PM on Tuesday. Despite targeting similar audiences, The Originals actually flourished opposite S.H.I.E.L.D. Now the CW vampire drama has been tasked to go against another big comic book-based new drama, Fox’s Gotham on Monday. Meanwhile, it is CW veteran Supernatural that will go against S.H.I.E.L.D. this time on Tuesday in a different slot, 9 PM.

Masterchef june 26Survivor vs. Hell’s Kitchen Wednesday 8 PM  — Proving the longevity of Mark Burnett’s wilderness competition and Fox’s short-tempered British TV chef Gordon Ramsay, this actually is not their first face-off. Ramsay went against Survivor six years ago on Thursday when the CBS series faced another Ramsay Fox cooking series, Kitchen Nightmares.