Every new TV show is a gamble. That’s especially true in the crowded fall season, when the networks roll out an array of new shows. Many of them won’t make it to a second season – and even if they do, it takes years for a TV show to turn a profit. There are ways to mitigate the risk, of course. You cast a recognizable actor. You work with a successful producer – look, there’s Ryan Murphy doing his Ryan Murphy thing with The New Normal! And even in the modern era of DVR and downloading, a good timeslot is still essential. A solid concept also helps – especially if you’re a procedural on CBS, or a female-skewing soap on ABC.
Risk is hardly a bad thing. Some of the biggest crowd pleasers in network history were shows that were eccentric, unique, and overly complicated. Lost was an expensive sci-fi show with an unknown cast headlined by the guy from Party of Five, produced by J.J. Abrams in the days when his brand of serialization was critically acclaimed but commercially unproven. CSI was a crime thriller focused on the geeks in the lab created by then-newcomer Anthony Zuiker, slotted halfheartedly into the schedule on Friday at 9:00. And Glee was a prime-time musical, a genre that was widely considered ratings kryptonite. Notice how nobody ever mentions Cop Rock anymore? (Just for fun, we ran a retroactive Risk Factor on those previous risks-turned-megahit shows. Click here to check it out.)
To kick off this fall TV seasion, we’ve determined the Risk Factor of all 21 new network offerings. We assessed each project by five criteria — The Pitch (how it fits in within the network’s typical framework), The Stars (who leads the cast), The Team (the creators and showrunners behind the project), The Time (where it falls on the schedule) and Ken’s Risk Rating (EW critic Ken Tucker’s assessment of the quality of each show’s pilot — a determination of high quality translates to a low risk factor rating and vice versa). We assigned a rating of 1 to 5 in each category — with 1 being the least risky and 5 being the most risky. (Click here for an expanded explanation of our terms.) Check out how each new show rates on our scale, below!