Fall's five toughest time slot battles (and which shows will win)

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With 25 new shows flooding the broadcast schedule this fall — and networks making all sorts of crafty time slot changes for existing shows — the TV chessboard has once again been dramatically rearranged. Let’s run down some of the most intriguing new rivalries in the making and determine–

What? What did you say? “Time slots don’t matter”?! Okay; usually, now’s the time I’d explain why that assumption is wrong. Yet because DVR playback and streaming have become so prominent, even those who are paid to obsessively dissect broadcast network scheduling strategy are agreeing that time period almost doesn’t matter nowadays. Except, of course, those times when it does — like how The Voice is used to help fuel The Blacklist, or how The Big Bang Theory seems to crush rival comedies into only having five seasons and no movie. But even if the impact of shows on other shows has waned considerably, somebody has to win each of these slots. So let’s have some fun and look at some of this year’s most intriguing showdowns (the full fall schedule is below for reference):

ABC’s Scandal vs. Fox’s Gracepoint AND Scandal vs. NBC’s Blacklist (Thursdays at 9 p.m.): Fox’s Gracepoint looks emotionally devastating and well made (just like the U.K. original Broadchurch), and has a short-order run in the fall. The Blacklist is this season’s biggest new hit and will move from Mondays to Thursdays after getting a post-Super Bowl airing next year. Yet both shows will bow to the power of Scandal, which is taking over ABC’s anchor spot from longtime occupant Grey’s Anatomy.

Fox’s Gotham vs. NBC’s The Voice (Mondays at 8 p.m.): Make no mistake: CBS’s The Big Bang Theory will win this slot. The interesting contest is for the runner-up ribbon among adults 18-49. That Gotham trailer is the most exciting drama preview of the fall, though naturally we’re all feeling some skepticism about a broadcast network pulling off a Batman prequel. The Voice has been in gradual decline, but is still doing strong numbers, while Fox’s Monday has been soft this season. It’s quite a gamble to bet against an established hit, but here’s my take: Gotham wins, at least out of the gate, at least for awhile. (This is all assuming Fox doesn’t blink and move Gotham before the fall. CBS announced it was shifting Big Bang to Mondays after Fox revealed their schedule, and it will take giant bat-balls for Fox to launch its biggest new show of next season against TV’s biggest hit.)

ABC’s Agents of SHIELD vs. CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.): Ah, the classic battle: Serialized genre show vs. traditional cop drama. We’ve seen this clash over and over again. Usually, unless a show is Lost, the old school comfort food wins. I suspect this time will be the same. New Orleans is untested, but it’s still an NCIS property, and SHIELD has been struggling to keep its numbers afloat.

NBC’s Constantine vs. CBS’s Blue Bloods (Fridays at 10 p.m.): Another classic: The CBS procedural is a grinder that always seems to wear down rivals, while NBC has been gutter balling this slot with Hannibal and Dracula. Can Constantine be the show to topple Blue Bloods? After going back and forth on this one, I’m going to give the edge to Constantine, at least at first and in the adult demo — fans voted the Constantine trailer their favorite of all of NBC’s new shows in our poll (trailer link in the chart below).

ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder vs. CBS’s Elementary (Thursdays at 10 p.m.): Will Thursday viewers have Shonda fatigue by the time 10 p.m. rolls around, after watching both Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal? Maybe a little. But not enough to make me vote against Murder. Rhimes’ track record is incredible — three hits, only one miss (Off the Map), and Scandal is almost certainly going to give Murder a bigger lead-in than CBS’s untested 9:30 p.m. comedy The McCarthys.

The fall schedule:


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