The overall solid start to the broadcast TV season has been punctuated by two more early full-season orders. ABC has picked up nine episodes each of new Wednesday drama Designated Survivor and comedy Speechless.
This marks a second full-season order for Speechless lead studio 20th Century Fox TV just a week-and-a-half into the season. The studio’s dramedy This Is Us was picked up at NBC. Designated Survivor hails from indie Mark Gordon Co. and ABC Studios, which also co-produces Speechless.
“Designated Survivor and Speechless are two of the most critically acclaimed new shows of the fall season,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said. “We’re very proud of the creative excellence in front of and behind the camera, and are thrilled to be giving our audience more episodes.”
In the past few years, the networks have been cautious, opting for script orders before triggering episodic pickups. Last year, the first full-season order, for NBC breakout Blindspot, did not come until three weeks into the season. A week-plus into this year, we already have four such orders, for ABC’s Designated Survivor and Speechless and NBC’s This Is Us and sophomore Superstore. NBC’s The Good Place also would have gotten a back order had it not been conceived for 13-episode runs.
CBS will follow with orders for newbies Kevin Can Wait, Bull and likely MacGyver, barring a Week 2 ratings collapse.
New ABC comedy Speechless has been a feel-good story all around. It was not an easy sell — featuring a disabled kid as one of the main characters. The project made a statement by casting a disabled young actor in the role, but the pilot almost didn’t happen until Minnie Driver was tapped as the mom at the last second. The low-key family comedy excelled in the pilot screenings and testings, landing a spot in ABC’s Wednesday comedy block. The series, created by Friends veteran Scott Silveri, launched to great reviews and solid premiere ratings, (2.0, 7.3 million in Live+same day). That was above ABC’s most recent debut in the time slot, The Real O’Neals, 1.8, drawing ABC’s largest audience in the slot in a year. The comedy held well in Week 2, dipping -10% to a 1.8 last night.
Speechless stars Driver, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook, Micah Fowler, Kyla Kenedy and Cedric Yarbrough. Silveri writes and is executive producer of the show, along with Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar.
In light of lofty expectations for 24 star Kiefer Sutherland’s return to TV, Designated Survivor had a solid but not remarkable Live+Same Day debut (2.2 in 18-49, 10 million). Still, it delivered ABC’s most-watched scripted telecast in the hour in 5 years. The well reviewed series excelled in L+3, becoming the biggest Live+3 gainer so far this season in total viewers among new and returning series with +5.3 million viewers, the largest viewer L3 lift since the debut of ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder in September 2014. In adults 18-49, Designated Survivor gained +1.5 rating in the first three days of playback, the biggest for a new series this season and second overall only to Big Bang‘s 1.6.
In Week 2, Designated Survivor last night drew a 1.8 in adults 18-49, down -18% from last week’s 2.2, and 7.9 million viewers, -24%. The encouraging news for ABC is that the drama for the second consecutive time significantly built onto its lead-in, Black-ish (1.6, 5.6 million) and won the 10 PM hour against dramas on CBS and NBC that both dropped off their lead-ins. And it’s running +60% ahead of Nashville‘s deliver in the hour last fall.
Designated Survivor stars Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, Tanner Buchanan; with Kal Penn and Maggie Q. David Guggenheim is the creator and executive producer. Simon Kinberg, Mark Gordon, Jon Harmon Feldman, Nick Pepper. Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood and Kiefer Sutherland are executive producers.